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Preventing and Treating an Abnormally Fast Heartbeat

Dr. Tariq Mehmood

2 min read

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Tachycardia is a heart rhythm disorder (arrythmias) in which the resting heart rate is above normal range i.e. 100 bpm (beats per minute) owing to a malfunction in the heart’s electrical wiring. Occurring in episodes, tachycardia can be easily prevented and treated with simple lifestyle changes, exercises and medication, in most cases.

Risk Factors:

Aside from advancing age and a genealogy of heart disease and/or arrythmia, presence of one or more of the following factors increases the risk of developing tachycardia:

  • Hypertension
  • Sleep apnea
  • Anemia
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Recreational drug use
  • A previous heart attack
  • Hypo/Hyperthyroidism
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Excess alcohol and caffeine consumption
  • Cardiomyopathy or structural cardiac issues

Prevention:

Since heart disease is a common catalyst for tachycardia, keeping it in check or preventing one from developing altogether is a prime tachycardia defense.

1- Preventing Heart Disease:

  • Get regular physical examinations and report to your doctor about any unusual symptoms.
  • Manage your weight, exercise regularly, and consume a heart-healthy diet of fruits, whole grains, and vegetables.
  • Consistently monitor and control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, while taking your prescription medications regularly if you suffer from hypertension.
  • Discontinue or avoid smoking and recreational drugs since they act as stimulants for rapidly increasing heart rate.
  • High risk individuals should use OTC medication with their doctor’s advice as certain cold and cough medications contain heart-rate elevating stimulants.
  • Drink no more than 1-2 caffeinated beverages daily.
  • Practice stress control and avoid unnecessary stress.

2- Managing a Pre Existing Heart Disease:

  • Prepare a treatment plan with your doctor and follow it as closely as possible
  • Take your medication regularly as prescribed.
  • Report to your doctor immediately if symptoms worsen or in case of developing new symptoms.

Treatment:

The tachycardia treatment plan focuses on treating the root cause of the condition, such as hyperthyroidism, heart disease, high cholesterol, and other medical conditions, while simultaneously managing and preventing tachycardia episodes:

1- Stopping An Episode:

  • Vagal Maneuvers affect the vagus nerve responsible for heartbeat regulation and can help normalize an elevated heart rate. They include coughing, bending as you would during a bowel movement, the ‘cold water technique’, i.e. holding your breath and putting your face in ice cold water for short intervals, and the ‘Valsalva maneuver’, i.e. taking a deep breath, holding your nose tightly and blowing out as hard as possible while keeping your mouth shut, among others.
  • Anti-arrhythmic pills or injections that restore normal heart rhythm and/or control heart rate may be prescribed or administered in certain cases where vagal maneuvers are insufficient.
  • Cardioversion  an electric current, is passed through the heart via paddles or patches placed over the chest and connected to an ‘Automated External Defibrillator (AED)’ to shock the heart into restoring normal rhythm, usually in emergency situations.

2- Preventing a Tachycardia Episode:

  • Certain Calcium Channel and Beta Blockers may be prescribed for regular intake alongside or as an alternative to anti-arrhythmic drugs for episode prevention. Moreover, patients at high risk of stroke or heart attack from blood clots may be prescribed Warfarin, a blood-thinning and clot-preventing medication.
  • Radiofrequency Catheter Ablation is a non-surgical procedure utilised for tachycardia arising from an extra electrical pathway in the heart. It involves damaging and preventing the extra pathway from further transmitting signals by heating catheters inserted into the heart.
  • An Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator (ICD) restores heart rate by monitoring and delivering electric shocks to the heart upon detecting and abnormal heartbeat, similar to an AED. However, an ICD is surgically implanted into the chest in patients with life-threatening or chronic Ventricular Tachycardia.
  • Surgery is usually reserved for patients unresponsive to other treatments or those who require treatment for another heart disorder. Options include open-heart surgery for extra electrical pathways, and the ‘Maze Procedure’ which is used to prevent tachycardia-causing stray electrical impulses by creating a pattern of scar tissue over the problematic section of the heart via incisions due to scar tissues being electrical non-conductors.

While not all types of tachycardia require medical treatment, a prompt diagnosis in case of any unusual symptoms is necessary to oust any underlying medical condition. 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 - 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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