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What Causes a Fast Resting Heart Rate?

author image Shannon Campbell
Shannon Campbell is a scientist and a small business owner. Based in Boulder, Colo., she is passionate about health and medical technologies. She holds a bachelor’s degree in human biology and biochemistry from the University of Guelph, and a PhD in human physiology from the University of Melbourne.
What Causes a Fast Resting Heart Rate?
Doctor monitoring elderly man's heart rate Photo Credit: Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Your resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute when it is at rest -- when you are calm and relaxed. Resting heart rate varies from person to person, but according to the American Heart Association, the normal range is 60 to 100 beats per minute. A resting heart rate over 100, a condition called tachycardia, may be appropriate for you, or it may indicate a more serious condition. Seek medical attention if you are concerned about an elevated heart rate, especially if it is accompanied by dizziness, shortness of breath, fainting or chest pain.

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Cardiovascular Risk Factor

Knowing your resting heart rate and how it changes over time can provide insight into your cardiovascular health. Your resting heart rate increases as you age, and it can also be affected by caffeine, tobacco and certain medications. An elevated resting heart rate, even above 80 beats per minutes, was demonstrated to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease by the authors of a December 2013 article in "Mayo Clinic Proceedings." Physical fitness, a healthy diet and reducing stress can help lower your resting heart rate.


Stress can affect your body in many ways, including increasing your resting heart rate. Anxiety, fright, pain and distress associated extreme emotions -- happiness, anger or sadness -- all increase adrenaline and cortisol levels. These hormones increase heart rate, and if the stress continues, can result in elevated resting heart rate. Your ability to manage stress can help lower your resting heart rate. Start by understanding what causes your stress and take time each day to relax. Exercise and getting enough sleep are also good ways to help manage stress.

Response to Illness

A high resting heart rate may be your body's normal response to various physiological conditions or illnesses, such as dehydration, fever or infections like colds or the flu. Certain drugs that you might use to treat these conditions, for example decongestants and asthma medications, can also contribute to an elevated resting heart rate. In these cases, monitor your condition, drink plenty of fluids and seek medical attention if the fever is high or persistent.

Abnormal Heart Function

Arrhythmias, problems with the rate or rhythm of the heart, can cause an elevated heart rate. Of the many kinds of arrhythmia, some are benign, while others can be life-threatening. Arrhythmias that increase resting heart rate are those that increase the electrical conductance of the heart or that result in extra heartbeats not originating in the sinoatrial node -- the pacemaker of the heart. Symptoms can include dizziness, palpitations or a sense of skipped heartbeats, shortness of breath and chest pain. Damage to the heart, from a heart attack or heart failure, can also result in an elevated resting heart rate. Talk to your doctor regarding any of these conditions and seek immediate medical attention if you experience an elevated heart rate with chest pain or shortness of breath.

Pathological Conditions

Certain pathological conditions can also increase resting heart rate. Anemia, a condition that decreases your ability to carry oxygen in your blood, usually results in an elevated heart rate. Hyperthyroidism or increased thyroid activity also increases heart rate. Speak to your doctor if you think you have these conditions, as it is important to treat any underlying cause of a high resting heart rate.

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