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Here’s Why Your Heart May Be Racing

Dr. Tariq Mehmood

3 min read

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Your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute escalates noticeably when you’re stressed, ill, traumatized, or simply exercising. However, if this speed remains the same when you’re at rest, then the condition is known as tachycardia; when the resting heart rate goes above the normal 60-100 bpm (beats per minute). Tachycardia is highly common and knows no age limit, although the first episode usually occurs between 25-40. In this article, we discuss the mechanism and effects of Tachycardia on your health.

The Mechanism

Electrical signals travel across heart tissues to help the heart muscles contract efficiently in order to regulate body-wide blood flow. However, an abnormality in this electric system drastically increases the electric signals in the upper (atria) or lower (ventricles) chambers or sections of the heart, causing them to beat rapidly. As a result, the heart’s ability to pump blood and oxygen both within itself and throughout the body is reduced, causing numerous cardiac and other health issues.


Most people with tachycardia show no symptoms, although some may exhibit the following signs due to reduced blood and oxygen supply:

  • Chest pain
  • Rapid pulse rate
  • Lightheadedness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Fainting (syncope)
  • Shortness of breath


While the exact cause may be hard to determine in some individuals, the following factors are common disruptors of the electrical signals/impulses that regulate the heart rate:

  • Fever
  • Anemia
  • Smoking
  • Drug abuse
  • Sudden stress
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Excessive exercise
  • Certain lung diseases
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Reactions to certain medication
  • Excess alcohol and/or caffeine consumption
  • A congenital abnormality in electric pathways or cardiac disease
  • Heart disease such as Coronary Artery Disease, heart valve and muscle diseases, tumours, and infections, or heart failure resulting in damage to heart tissues.


The effects of Tachycardia can be far-reaching. Depending upon the origin and cause, tachycardia is divided into the following categories:

1- Sinus Tachycardia:

Caused by a malfunction in the sinoatrial node (the heart’s natural pacemaker) above the right atrium, sinus tachycardia commonly results from strenuous exercise, fever, anxiety, trauma, anemia, or hyperthyroidism. It has no serious or long-term consequences and resolves upon treatment of causative factor(s).

2- Atrial Fibrillation:

This common form of tachycardia is caused by chaotic and irregular electrical impulses in the left atrium (upper heart chamber) resulting in weak, uncoordinated, and rapid atrial contractions. Usually affecting people with heart disease, hypertension, hyperthyroidism, heart valve disorders, or excess alcohol consumption, episodes may last from a hours to days and may or may not require treatment.

3- Atrial Flutter:

People who normally experience atrial fibrillations may sometimes experience atrial flutters, where electrical circuit irregularities in both atria cause them to beat at a faster rate with weak contractions However, each episode usually resolves itself without any treatment.

4- Ventricular Fibrillation:

During or after a heart attack in those who have experienced severe trauma or have an underlying heart disease, rapid and chaotic electrical impulses cause the ventricles to quiver instead of contracting strongly for effective blood circulation, which may be fatal. Therefore, heart rhythm must be restored within minutes of an episode via defibrillation (electric shocks).

5- Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT):

Resulting from a congenital electrical circuit abnormality in the heart, the ventricles (lower heart chambers) start beating rapidly and are unable to fill with blood before contracting, resulting in insufficient blood supply to the body. An SVT episode usually lasts between a few seconds to a few hours.

6- Ventricular Tachycardia:

Like SVT, abnormal electrical impulses and the resultant rapid heartbeats in the ventricles drastically reduce overall blood supply by not allowing them to fill up prior to contraction. However, while brief episodes are harmless, a ventricular tachycardia episode exceeding a few seconds is a life-threatening medical emergency and must be treated a such.   


If the effects of Tachycardia are left untreated, most types of tachycardia (except sinus tachycardia) can cause the following health complications:

  • Stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Frequent fainting spells or unconsciousness
  • Blood clots that may cause a stroke or heart attack over time
  • Sudden cardiac arrest or death (usually in case of ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation)


Your doctor will decide what’s best after he gets your test results.

If you have sinus tachycardia, he’ll help you pinpoint the cause and suggest things to lower your heart rate. These might include lifestyle changes like easing stress or taking medicine to lower a fever.

If you have supraventricular tachycardia, your doctor may recommend that you drink less caffeine or alcohol, get more sleep, or quit smoking.

Treatments for ventricular tachycardia may include medication to reset the heart’s electrical signals or ablation, a procedure that destroys the abnormal heart tissue that is leading to the condition. Your doctor might also use a defibrillator to disrupt rapid heart rhythms.

A rapid heart rate doesn’t always need treatment. But sometimes it can be life-threatening. So play it safe – let your doctor know right away if you have any type of irregular heartbeat.

While a rapid heart rate doesn’t always require treatment, seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the above effects of tachycardia. You can also book an appointment with a top Cardiologist in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad through oladoc.com, or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT Doctor for your cardiac concerns.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Tariq Mehmood
Dr. Tariq Mehmood - Author Prof. Dr. Tariq Mahmood Malik is a cardiologist of international stature and fame. Prof. Dr. Tariq Mahmood Malik moved back to Pakistan from USA; during the peak of his career in 1993. He graduated from King Edward Medical College and went to USA for higher education and training. Academically he went as high as high as one can go;Three Board Certifications and Fellowship to all prestigious professional colleges i.e. American College of Cardiology, American college of Physicians, American College of Chest physicians and Clinical Council of American Heart Association. He distinguished himself in research and for his contributions to medical science for management of Heart arrhythmia, he received The Recognition award from the National Heart institute of America.

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