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What Are the Common Causes of a High Resting Heart Rate?

By Kelly Ferguson
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A resting heart rate is considered high if it falls above 100 beats per minute, the upper range of a normal heart rate, although some patients may choose to be evaluated for possible treatment if the heart rate is consistently above 80 or even 70 beats per minute. This rate can be caused by a number of things, from an infection somewhere in the body to dehydration or anxiety. While having a high resting heart rate for infrequent and short periods of time, such as during a fever, is not necessarily dangerous, it should be evaluated and treated by a doctor if it remains consistently above normal for an extended time because it increases the risk of problems such as heart attacks and strokes. Some people with a chronically high heart rate may need to be put on medication for the condition, but in many cases, the rate can be lowered simply by pinpointing and removing or treating the specific cause.

The resting heart rate is often the result of the body's reaction to relatively normal physiological reactions. Stress, anxiety, and dehydration can all be causes for a high rate. Being out of shape physically can make the heart work harder to maintain a normal level of circulation, causing it to beat faster. Counterintuitively, overtraining, or exercising too much, can also have the same effect.

On many occasions, a high resting heart rate may be the result of food, beverages, or drugs that have been consumed. Drinking caffeinated soft drinks, taking pills, such as energy pills or diet pills that contain caffeine and other stimulants, or taking other forms of stimulants can increase the resting heart rate significantly. Additionally, smoking and drinking large amounts of alcohol can both contribute to a high rate. In some cases, an individual can have a reaction to a medication he or she is taking for other reasons, which may also raise the heart rate above normal.

Sometimes, however, a high resting heart rate can indicate the presence of a disease or other health problem. Heart defects, heart disease, blood loss or anemia, and high blood pressure can all potentially cause a high resting heart rate. Fever and infection also increase the heart rate, so that the body can increase the blood supply to the infected areas and boost healing. Hyperthyroidism, when the thyroid gland functions at above normal capacity, also tends to increase the rate.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1005309 — On Aug 02, 2021

I too have had an elevated RHR, 120bpm, from my teen-aged years, in fact when I enlisted for military service they required a cardiologist examine before accepting me -- at age sixteen. At that time and throughout my life -- I am in my sixties now -- my resting BP has consistently been in the range of 120-30 over 80, my RHR even more consistent at 120. EKG graphs consistent too without notable anomalies.

The cardiologist who examined me back than simply said my heart marched to the beat of a different drummer, though he also mentioned my life expectancy would be reduced.

With my grandfather and father passing away at the age of seventy four, I am suspect I should enjoy the decade or so left to me.

But, no one gets out alive, though I am acquiring more symptoms of type 2 diabetes in the last year, something I do not recall either of my paternal parents exhibiting. Admittedly, I am not a physically active as both of them.

By anon1002982 — On Apr 07, 2020

Should I be concerned for my brother? He had quadruple by-pass surgery in September and has been doing fine, until this morning when his resting heart rate was 100. He is taking bp medicines, muscle and pain pills for his disabilities.

By Lostnfound — On Nov 27, 2014

Getting on anti-anxiety medication helped me more than anything. I had a high resting heart rate, and I was having panic attacks. I couldn't concentrate on anything.

Getting on the anti-anxiety meds was the best thing I could have done. I was on them for about two weeks and noticed I was calmer. The next time they checked my pulse at the doctor's office, it was down to 80 from 93! So that was a pretty significant change. I feel a lot better and much more focused, so I know that's helped my heart rate, too. I don't want to be on the meds in large doses, or for the rest of my life, but right now, they're a godsend.

By Grivusangel — On Nov 26, 2014

My resting heart rate always runs about 90, no matter what. It has ever since I was a kid. I do have high blood pressure, but it's well controlled and I exercise and watch what I eat. I just have a high heart rate.

My doctor isn't really thrilled about it, but since I don't have any problems, thank goodness, he just takes a watch and wait approach. I'm OK with that. I know what's considered a normal heart rate, but when my blood pressure is 110 over 72, which is normal for me, these days, and my heart rate is still 90, I just have to think that's my normal resting rate.

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