Your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute as it pumps blood throughout your body. Your heart rate will speed up, or increase, at times, which can be either good or bad, depending on the circumstances. A certain level of heart rate increase is good for your health when it's done under the right conditions. Speak to your doctor if you have a history of heart disease and you notice your heart rate increasing or beating irregularly when you are not physically active.
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Physical exertion can speed up your heart rate, whether or not you are trying to exercise. If working out to elevate your heart rate is your goal, aerobic exercise is the term for the activities in which you'll want to participate. The American Diabetes Association explains that aerobic exercise such as swimming, jogging, riding a bike, walking or playing a variety of sports, is a healthy way to raise your heart rate and tone your muscles. If you do not exercise regularly, you may find that doing everyday tasks like climbing the stairs in your home or lifting heavy objects may also cause your heart rate to speed up.
Medications and recreational drugs can also increase your heart rate, which is not always a positive health effect. NetWellness, a consumer health information resource backed by three Ohio-based educational institutions, points out that some medicines, including hydralazine and phenylephrine, can treat disorders that are characterized by an unhealthy, abnormally low heart rate. Other prescription medications, including those labeled as stimulants, may be prescribed for an unrelated medical condition, but carry the side effect of a quicker pulse and heart rate. Likewise, street drugs, including cocaine, "speed" and PCP can also cause your heart to race, which can be dangerous when your heart rate becomes too fast for your cardiovascular system to handle.
Your morning cup of coffee or 3 p.m. energy drink "pick me up" can also speed up your heart. Caffeine is a stimulant; the jittery, nervous feeling you might get when you drink too much of your favorite soft drink or iced tea is also a sign that your heart's pace has picked up. A 2007 article in the UK's "Daily Mail" shows that the very high caffeine content of energy drinks, as well as a chemical called taurine, caused a spike of between eight and 11 percent of the resting heart rate and blood pressure of study participants after drinking two energy drinks each day for a full week.