Heart rate is controlled by electrical signals sent through heart tissue. A healthy adult heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute at rest. Many people, however, experience an elevated heart rate and for a variety of reasons. A chronic high heart rate can disrupt normal heart function severely, increasing the risk of a stoke or heart attack.
Rapid heart rate is inefficient for the body because it does not pump the blood properly. Some side effects you may experience with a rapid heart rate include dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, chest pain, shortness of breath or heart palpitations. Some people may only experience a rapid heart rate and not have any other symptoms. You should see a doctor if you experience symptoms. Your doctor may suggest an EKG to see if you have tachycardia or any other problems with your heart.
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Exercise is a common cause of rapid heart rate. Your heart rate should elevate during exercise, but it may be a problem if your heart rate remains elevated for more than 10 minutes after you finish your workout. Dehydration can also cause a faster heart rate. The lack of water in your body will decrease your blood volume and therefore lower the amount of blood your heart is able to circulate with each beat. This causes the heart to beat more rapidly to circulate more blood. Stimulants like caffeine, ephedrine, nicotine and certain decongestants can all cause rapid heart rate, as can medical conditions such as high stress, anxiety, anemia, overactive thyroid, anorexia, diabetes and illnesses causing a fever.
Your doctor may suggest you manipulate the vagal nerve, which helps regulate your heartbeat, by coughing, placing an ice pack on your face or bearing down as if having a bowel movement. This can help return your rapid heart rate to a more normal one. If vagal nerve manipulations do not work, your doctor may recommend an anti-arrhythmic medication for you to take when you experience an episode of rapid heart beats.
Drink plenty of water during your workout. This will help you stay hydrated and ensure your blood volume remains high. Drink only one cup of coffee or switch to decaf if you find caffeine is the cause of your increased heart rate. Avoid taking diet pills or cold medications containing ephedrine if these are the cause of your rapid heart rate.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.