Fast Heart Rate: Risks, Causes & Treatment

What is Fast Heart Rate (Tachycardia)?

Tachycardia refers to a heart rhythm disorder in which a person’s heart rate is unusually fast at more than 100 beats per minute at rest. Normally, a person’s heart rate would be 60 to 100 beats per minute at rest. After a scare or a stressful situation, you may experience sinus tachycardia that goes away when you calm down or rest. However, other types of tachycardia may be dangerous and can come back regularly – this will warrant medical attention and treatment.

What are the Causes of Tachycardia?

  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM): This disease results in a thickened heart muscle which can result in changes to the heart’s electrical system, leading to unusually fast heart rate.
  • Heart attack: Part of the heart is damaged and the heart must pump faster to transport blood around the body, leading to an increased heart rate.
  • Stress: Your body releases adrenaline during times of stress, and adrenaline is a hormone that has the effect of increasing one’s heart rate.
  • Overconsumption of caffeine: Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, resulting in an increased heart rate.
  • Excessive alcohol intake: Alcohol can cause the blood vessels to dilate, thereby reducing blood pressure. To make up for that, the heart may pump faster in order to maintain sufficient blood flow throughout the body.
  • Smoking: When carbon monoxide is inhaled, there is less oxygen for red blood cells to transport around the body, resulting in the heart receiving a decreased amount of oxygen to pump around the body. The heart then compensates for this by beating faster.
  • Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism): Excessively high levels of thyroid hormones can speed up the body’s metabolism which increases heart rate.
  • Stimulant medications (cold medicine): These medicines work by constricting blood vessels, which increases one’s blood pressure and elevating one’s heart rate.
  • Fever: A fever often causes one’s heart rate to increase so that oxygenated blood can be better circulated around the body in order to fight off the underlying infection or illness.

Why Does Tachycardia Need to be Treated?

As tachycardia places additional strain on the heart and increases the risk of serious cardiovascular complications such as stroke or cardiac arrest, targeted and long-term management of the tachycardia is key.

Tachycardia also has negative effects on one’s comfort and daily life. For instance, one may experience:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest Pain
  • Heart palpitations
  • Light-headedness
  • Fainting

Who is at Risk of Developing Tachycardia?

People who:

  • Have had a heart attack, cardiomyopathy, myocarditis, heart failure or heart disease.
  • Smoke
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have diabetes
  • Have a family history of tachycardia
  • Are obese
  • Have an untreated thyroid condition

How is Tachycardia Diagnosed?

The heart doctor will first perform an initial evaluation together with the necessary diagnostic tests to evaluate the condition of the patient. These diagnostic tests include an electrocardiogram (ECG), Holter or transtelephonic ECG and electrophysiology study. Depending on the type of tachycardia, different treatments will be recommended.

How is Tachycardia Treated?

  • Oral Medications: Doctors will usually prescribe oral medications that help to slow down heart rate. Some medications work by blocking the effects of adrenaline, as well as widen veins and arteries to improve blood flow. Others slow down the movement of calcium into cells of the heart and blood vessel walls, making it easier for the heart to pump and widen the blood vessels.
  • Catheter ablation: Supraventricular tachycardia is a sudden burst of rapid heartbeats that start and end suddenly. This is often treated by catheter ablation, a non-surgical procedure where a thin electrode catheter is utilised to localise the abnormal site in the heart causing the arrhythmia.
  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD): Another treatment option the doctor may recommend for tachycardia is having an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) implanted in the patient’s chest. This is a small device that aids in monitoring heart rhythm and restoring it to a normal heart rate when needed.

Should tachycardia be caused by other underlying disorders that cannot be controlled with medications or lifestyle changes (such as a damaged heart valve, or other structural abnormalities), patients may be required to undergo surgery to treat that pre-existing condition. However, in general, surgery is not always necessary for tachycardia and non-surgical treatments are always first explored.

On the patients’ end, it is also strongly recommended for them to get adequate quality sleep and cut down on alcohol or caffeine intake. A well-balanced diet of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein would be beneficial as well. Doctors also encourage patients to exercise regularly and appropriately.

When paired with personalised medical treatment and monitoring by a cardiologist, tachycardia can be effectively managed. Ace Cardiology Clinic conducts comprehensive consultations and cardiac examinations, including ECGs. For more information, call 9155 2942 today.

When faced with a new heart disease diagnosis, you can benefit from a cardiac second opinion. This valuable service allows you to know that your diagnosis is correct and provides information about your treatment choices.
To schedule a meeting, please call 9155 2942 or fill up the form below
Ace Cardiology Clinic location
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3 Mount Elizabeth, #17-18
Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre
Singapore 228510

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Opening Hours

Mon to Fri: 9:00am–5:00pm
Sat: 9:00am-12:00pm
Sun & PH: Closed

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Tel: 6235 7536 | 9155 2942
Fax: 6235 7598

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