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Tachycardia - an Increased Heart Rate

Tachycardia is a medical condition that manifests itself in increased heart beat of more than 100 beats per minute. What is accepted as normal heart rate is different depending on age, but for an adult anything more than 100 bpm is considered above the norm.

"It is important to understand that tachycardia is not an illness in itself, but rather a symptom that may either be simply a result of excessive physical activity or a warning sign."

There are three distinctive types of tachycardia: sinus tachycardia, supraventricular tachycardia and ventricular tachycardia. All of them are caused by electrical signals in the heart being sent at an abnormal pace or from an uncommon for that part of the heart. This forces the heart to beat faster, making it impossible for it to fill with blood before its next contraction and resulting in reduced blood flow into the organs and the risk of lowered oxygen saturation.

Sinus tachycardia is caused by a higher pace of signals sent by the heart’s natural pacemaker, meaning that the heart beats properly, but faster than usual. This condition may be caused by strenuous exercise, stress, fear, anxiety and some medications.

The symptoms of this type of tachycardia are limited to a faster pulse and do not normally require medical intervention. The doctor might prescribe a change in your exercise routine or therapy to reduce stress levels.

Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) starts in the upper chambers of the heart, where signals are sent that interfere with the normal heartbeat that comes from sinoatrial node (the heart’s natural pacemaker). In such condition a person’s heart beat can in rare cases reach 300 bpm and then rapidly decrease back to normal. The symptoms include:

  • pounding pulse
  • dizziness
  • lightheadedness
  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • sweating
  • loss of consciousness

In most cases medical treatment is not required unless the episodes of SVT are prolonged or frequent. Since SVT is usually associated with increased consumption of alcohol, tobacco and excessive consumption of caffeine, you can prevent the condition by addressing these issues.

The third type, ventricular tachycardia (VT), starts in the lower chambers of the heart, and is also characterized by an abnormal type of heartbeat. This condition can be life-threatening and may be caused by cardiomyopathy, sarcoidosis or lack of coronary artery blood flow. Its symptoms are the same as those of SVT, and it is highly advisable to consult a doctor if you experience any of the abovementioned. Treatment of VT depends largely on the cause of the condition and ranges from prescription of medication to surgery.

If unattended, tachycardia can lead to heart attack, stroke or even death, meaning that a timely intervention may prove lifesaving. Even if medical tests show that your tachycardia is not life-threatening and is caused by caffeine or tobacco consumption, it would simply mean that the time has come for a lifestyle change.

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