According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a rapid pulse or arrhythmia may occur during episodes of anxiety. A normal pulse or heart rate is between 60-100 beats per minute. If an individual has a resting heart rate faster than 100 beats, they may be experiencing tachycardia, which can result from a variety of medical conditions, and is often associated with stress, anxiety, and fear.
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Stress and Anxiety
The National Institutes of Health note that stress and anxiety result from a sensation of nervousness, worry, or fear. When worry and anxiety build, they place stress on an individual's body, producing higher levels of stress hormones. These hormones cause symptoms such as restlessness, sleeplessness, and fatigue, and this process will often cause a cycle that produces higher levels of anxiety.
A panic attack is strong physical response to a fear or worry. The National Institutes of Health note that many individuals who have panic attacks may mistake them for heart attacks because they have increased pulse that is often accompanied with chest pain or dizziness. A person experiencing a panic attack may suddenly feel that his heart is racing and will feel an intense sense of fear or numbness in the hands or feet. The National Institutes of Health notes that panic attacks can occur without a clear trigger, so patients often do not realize they are experiencing anxiety and will feel that they are having a medical emergency.
Risk Factors for Anxiety and Rapid Heart Rate
The National Institutes of Health notes that genetics play an important role in anxiety and panic attacks. Although it is unclear exactly what causes some individuals to experience anxiety disorders, medical experts have linked these disorders to substance abuse, alcohol abuse, and depression. Consumption of alcohol may lower an individual's levels of vitamin B-12, and this vitamin deficiency is often linked to higher levels of anxiety and stress.
Exams and Tests
A individual who is experiencing rapid heart rate may have a medical exam and diagnostic tests such as electrocardiogram or an echocardiogram. These tests diagnose any heart issues that may be causing the palpitations. Doctors at the National Institutes of Health note that individuals with healthy heart function may experience palpitations, and in many cases these episodes are linked to anxiety and stress rather than heart disease or heart attack.
Treatment of Anxiety and Rapid Heart Rate
According to the National Institutes of Health, individuals with anxiety and panic attacks can prevent episodes of irregular heart rate by avoiding stimulants such as caffeine, eating a healthy diet, not smoking, and using stress management techniques such as deep breathing and meditation. In some cases patients may benefit from psychotherapy to help them identify the sources of stress in their lives. Experts at the National Institutes of Health also note that a variety of psychotropic medications can be used to control anxiety and reduce incidence of panic attacks and rapid heart rate.