Tachycardia is the medical term for a heart rate greater than 100 beats per minute. Many abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) can cause tachycardia.
Sometimes it is normal to have a fast heartbeat. For example, it’s normal for your heart rate to increase during exercise or in response to stress, trauma, or illness. But in the case of tachycardia, the heart beats faster than normal due to conditions unrelated to normal physiological stress.
In some cases, tachycardia causes no symptoms or complications. But if left untreated, tachycardia can disrupt normal heart function and lead to serious complications, including:
– heart defect
– Sudden cardiac arrest or death
Treatments, such as drugs, medical procedures, or surgery, can help control a rapid heartbeat or treat other conditions that contribute to tachycardia.
Types of tachycardia
There are many types of tachycardia. They are grouped according to the part of the heart responsible for the fast heartbeat and the cause of the unusually fast heartbeat. Common types of tachycardia are:
Atrial fibrillation is a rapid heartbeat caused by chaotic and irregular electrical impulses in the upper chambers (atria) of the heart. These signals result in rapid, uncoordinated, and weak contractions in the atria. Atrial fibrillation can be transient, but some episodes won’t stop if left untreated. Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of tachycardia.
In atrial flutter, the atria of the heart beat very quickly but regularly. This rapid rhythm leads to weak contractions of the atria. Atrial flutter is caused by irregular circulation in the atria. Episodes of atrial flutter may go away on their own or may require treatment. People with atrial flutter often have atrial fibrillation at other times as well.
Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT)
Supraventricular tachycardia is an abnormally rapid heartbeat that begins somewhere above the lower chambers (ventricles) of the heart. It is caused by an abnormal circuit in the heart, usually present at birth, that creates an overlapping signaling loop.
Ventricular tachycardia is a fast heartbeat that starts with abnormal electrical signals in the lower chambers (ventricles) of the heart. The fast heart rate doesn’t allow the ventricles to fill and contract efficiently to pump enough blood around the body. Ventricular tachycardia episodes can be brief, lasting only a few seconds without causing harm. But episodes lasting more than a few seconds can become a life-threatening medical emergency.
Ventricular fibrillation occurs when fast, chaotic electrical impulses cause the heart’s lower chambers (ventricles) to tremble instead of pumping the blood the body needs. This phenomenon can be fatal if an electric shock (defibrillation) does not return the heart to a normal rhythm within a few minutes. Ventricular fibrillation can occur during or after a heart attack. Most people with ventricular fibrillation have an underlying heart condition or have suffered major trauma, such as a heart attack. B. a lightning strike.
Symptoms of tachycardia
If your heart is beating too fast, it may not be pumping enough blood to the rest of your body. This can deprive your organs and tissues of oxygen and cause the following signs and symptoms related to tachycardia:
– shortness of breath
– rapid pulse
– Palpitations: a fast, uncomfortable or irregular heartbeat, or a “pounding” feeling in the chest
– chest pain
– fainting (syncope)
Some people with tachycardia have no symptoms, and the condition is only discovered during a physical exam or heart monitoring test called an electrocardiogram.
Main causes of tachycardia
Tachycardia is caused by something interfering with the normal electrical impulses that control your heart’s pumping rate. Many factors can cause or contribute to a rapid heartbeat. These include in particular:
– Drinking too many caffeinated beverages
– Excessive alcohol consumption
– Physical activity
– High or low blood pressure
– Imbalance of electrolytes, minerals necessary for the transmission of electrical impulses.
– Side effects of medication
– Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
– Sudden stress, such as anxiety
– Use of stimulants such as cocaine or methamphetamine.
In some cases, the exact cause of the tachycardia cannot be determined.
Understanding Tachycardia: The Electrical System of the Heart
To understand the causes of heart rate or rhythm problems like tachycardia, it helps to understand how the heart’s electrical system works.
Your heart is made up of four chambers: two upper chambers (atria) and two lower chambers (ventricles). Your heartbeat is normally controlled by a natural pacemaker called the sinus node, located in the right atrium. The sinus node produces electrical impulses that normally trigger each heartbeat. Electrical impulses travel from the sinus node through the atria, causing the ear muscles to contract and pumping blood into the lower chambers (ventricles) of the heart.
The electrical impulses then arrive at a group of cells called the atrioventricular (AV) node, which is normally the only pathway for signal transmission between the atria and ventricles. The AV node slows down the electrical signal before sending it to the ventricles. This slight delay allows the ventricles to fill with blood. When the electrical impulses reach the muscles of the heart’s chambers, they contract and pump blood to either the lungs or the rest of the body. When this complex system is disturbed, the heart can beat too fast (tachycardia), too slow (bradycardia), or with an irregular rhythm.
As you get older or have a family history of tachycardia or other abnormal heart rhythms, you are more likely to develop tachycardia.
Any condition that puts pressure on the heart or damages heart tissue can increase the risk of tachycardia.
These conditions include:
– heart disease
– Excessive alcohol consumption
– High caffeine consumption
– High blood pressure
– Overactive or underactive thyroid
– Psychological stress or anxiety
– sleep apnea
– Use of stimulants
Lifestyle changes or medical treatment for related health problems can reduce your risk of tachycardia.
Possible complications of tachycardia
Complications of tachycardia depend on the type of tachycardia, how fast the heart is beating, how long the rapid heart rate lasts, and whether other heart problems are present.
Possible complications are:
– Blood clots which can cause a stroke or heart attack.
– inability of the heart to pump enough blood (heart failure)
– frequent fainting or loss of consciousness
– Sudden death, usually associated only with ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation.
The most effective way to prevent tachycardia is to maintain a healthy heart and reduce the risk of heart disease. If you already have heart disease, monitor it and follow your treatment plan to prevent tachycardia.
prevent heart disease
Treat or eliminate risk factors that can lead to heart disease. Take the following actions:
– Get exercise and eat healthy. Adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet that is low in fat and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
– Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity increases the risk of developing heart disease.
– Control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Make lifestyle changes and take prescribed medications to correct high blood pressure (hypertension) or high cholesterol.
– Stop smoking. If you smoke and can’t quit on your own, talk to your doctor about strategies or programs to help you quit the habit.
– Drink in moderation. If you decide to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. If you decide to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men. For some diseases it is recommended to avoid alcohol altogether. Ask your doctor for advice specific to your condition.
– Do not use recreational drugs. Do not use stimulants such as cocaine. If you need help to quit recreational drug use, ask your doctor about an appropriate program.
– Use over-the-counter medications with caution. Some cold and cough medicines contain stimulants that can make your heart beat faster. Ask your doctor what medications to avoid.
– Limit caffeine. If you do drink caffeinated beverages, do so in moderation (no more than one or two drinks a day).
– control stress. Avoid unnecessary stress and learn coping techniques to deal with normal stress in a healthy way.
– Go to the provided checks. Get regular physical exams and report any signs or symptoms to your doctor.
– Monitor and treat existing heart conditions
* Presse Santé strives to convey health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace the advice of a doctor.
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