Tachycardia is a common type of heart rhythm disorder when the heart beats faster than normal while at rest.
According to the American Heart Association, a resting heart rate of more than 100 beats per minute (BPM) in adults is generally referred to as tachycardia.
It’s normal for your heart rate to rise during exercise or as a physiological response to stress, illness or trauma, but in tachycardia, the heart beats faster than normal in the upper or lower chambers of the heart – or both – while at rest.
Your heart rate is controlled by electrical signals sent through heart tissues. Tachycardia occurs when an abnormality in the heart produces rapid signals that quicken heart rate – which is normally about 60 to 100 beats per minute at rest for the average, healthy adult.
In some cases, tachycardia may cause no symptoms or complications. But if left untreated, tachycardia can disrupt normal heart function and lead to serious complications including stroke, heart failure and even sudden, cardiac arrest.
What’s too fast for you may depend on your age and physical condition. Treatments, including medications or specific medical procedures can help control rapid heartbeat or manage other conditions contributing to tachycardia.
When your heart is beating too fast, it may not pump blood effectively to the rest of your body. This can ultimately deprive organs and tissues of valuable oxygen and can cause the following signs and symptoms:
- Rapid pulse rate
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations
- Fainting spells
- Shortness of breath
It’s important to note some people feel no symptoms with tachycardia, and the condition is only detected during a regular physical examination.
Multiple things can either cause or contribute to problems with the heart’s electrical system. Tachycardia, which is caused by a disruption to the electrical impulses that control the rate of your heart’s pumping action, has many contributive causes. They include:
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Disease or congenital abnormality of the heart
- Overactive thyroid
- Medication side effects
- Heart disease
- Exercise (or lack thereof)
- High or low blood pressure
- Drinking too much caffeine
- Electrolyte imbalance in the body
These are only some of the contributing causes of tachycardia. And, in some cases, the exact cause of tachycardia cannot be determined.
If your resting heart rate is regularly over 100 beats per minute, the best advice is to see your doctor for a prompt, accurate diagnosis.