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There are both expected and abnormal causes of rapid heart beats. Under certain circumstances, such as exercise, stress, and fear, a person’s heart may beat faster. Abnormal causes of rapid heart beats, or tachycardia, include infection, coronary artery disease, and heart attack.
A healthy person’s heart will normally beat approximately 60 to 100 beats per minute. Anything outside of this range is considered abnormal. Tachycardia refers to a condition that causes the heart to beat beyond 100 beats per minute, while bradycardia is when the heart drops below 60 beats per minute.
Everyday circumstances can lead to a rapid heart beat. Exercise will raise an individual’s heart rate above the normal resting rate. While this is an example of a cause of rapid heart beats, it isn’t a cause for concern as long as the individual is monitored for any excessive increases in heart rate outside of their typical maximum heart rate that should be sustained during exercise. In those that suffer from stress, anxiety, and panic attacks, the sensation of a racing heart can lead many to worry, but it typically is more of a psychological problem and not related to the health of an individual’s heart.
An infection can also be one of the causes of rapid heart beats. Upper respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, can place added stress on the cardiovascular system, leading to a rapid heart beat. Another infection that can lead to a rapid heart beat is rheumatic fever.
Diseases and conditions of the heart are perhaps the most well-known causes of rapid heart beats. This includes diseases such as coronary artery disease and conditions such as ventricular tachycardia and supraventricular tachycardia. In addition to a rapid heart beat, those suffering from these conditions may also notice an irregular or skipping heart beat.
Those experiencing a rapid heart beat should speak to a physician as soon as possible to find the cause. Emergency medical treatment is necessary when a person experiences a rapid heart beat in combination with several other symptoms. These include chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, and vision changes.
Testing will be done to determine the best approach to treatment. For rapid heart beat caused by stress and anxiety, this may include behavior modification therapy to help patients learn how to handle stressful situations and limit the physical effects of stress. Those with an underlying disease or condition will receive treatment specific to their condition. Treatment options include lifestyle changes, medication, and surgery.