First love. Meeting someone famous. Seeing a rainbow after a sensational Sarasota storm. It’s a special feeling when your heart skips a beat. But what if it feels as if your heart is beating too fast? Most often the causes are not dangerous but it helps to know what’s behind the sensation and what it could mean.
Your heart rate increases to keep up when you exercise or if you start to feel anxiety or excitement. Most of the time you do not even notice as your heart pumps faster.
Every person has a different baseline or normal resting heart rate. On average, a normal resting heart rate is between 50 and about 80 beats per minute. A resting heart rate over 100 beats per minute is considered an abnormally fast beat, or tachycardia. Remember that your healthy heart rate can go over 100 beats a minute when you are engaging in aerobic exercise or other strenuous physical activity in order to supply increased demand for oxygen and fuel.
Below are some reasons that your healthy heart’s rate may be very fast:
- Intense exercise.
- Dehydration, especially during exercise.
- Intense fear. This is the “fight or flight” response.
- Stimulant drug use or abuse. Examples include excess caffeine or cocaine use.
- Pregnancy. Your heart speeds up and pumps more blood to sustain the growing baby.
Everyone experiences a “missed beat” at one point or another – it may feel as if your heart is racing or pounding. If this feeling resolves without any other symptoms, chances are there is nothing to worry about.
These sensations are called palpitations. Even though they are usually harmless, they can sometimes indicate problems involving your heart rhythm.
Tachycardia and heart rhythm disorders
Too fast heartbeat or tachycardia may indicate an arrhythmia, which happens when the heart’s electrical signals do not work properly. This can lead to too fast or irregular heartbeats.
There are two basic types: atrial and ventricular tachycardia.
- Atrial tachycardia involves the upper chambers of your heart beating out of sync, too fast. There are many possible causes, including too much caffeine, extreme anxiety, even exhaustion. In some cases, heart disease may cause atrial tachycardia.
- Ventricular tachycardia involves the lower chambers of the heart. This type of irregular, too fast heartbeat can be fatal. It usually occurs in people who have extensive heart damage from previous heart attacks or in people who have too little oxygen supply to the heart.
If you have any of these symptoms in addition to the sensation that your heart is beating too fast, contact your doctor right away:
- Chest pain or tightness
- Feeling very tired
- Being short of breath
- Feeling nauseated
Usually, tachycardia is not a medical emergency, but ventricular tachycardia can cause cardiac arrest, even death.
Other medical conditions
Here are some other conditions that are linked with an excessively fast heartbeat:
- Asthma or other types of breathing problems
- Low potassium levels in your blood
- Certain medications
- Overactive thyroid
It’s important to talk to your doctor and find out the cause of your rapid heartbeat. Once you know the cause, you will get the treatment that you need or reassurance that everything is OK.
Dr. Issam Soussou, one of the nation’s top vascular and general surgeons, specializes in the comprehensive diagnosis and management of diseases and disorders affecting the arteries, veins, and lymphatic system. To learn more about heart rhythm disorders or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Soussou, please call Intercoastal Medical Group at our Cattleridge office in Sarasota or request one online.