When Should You Go to the Hospital for a Rapid Heart Rate?

A racing heart might feel scary, especially if it comes out of nowhere. This rapid heartbeat, called tachycardia, can sometimes seem as if there is no explanation or cause. 

What is tachycardia, and when should you be concerned? Today, Carda is here to talk about this rapid heart rate, as well as its causes, types, and next steps. 

What Is Tachycardia?

A rapid heart rate, or tachycardia, occurs when you experience a heart rate of over 100 beats per minute at rest. Tachycardia can last from a few brief seconds to a few hours. 

How Can You Recognize a Rapid Heart Rate?

The clearest way to recognize tachycardia is the sensation of a very rapid heartbeat as if your heart is racing. You may also feel palpitations, flutters, pounding, or throbbing in your heartbeat rhythm in addition to the rapid rate increase. 

Other symptoms accompanying tachycardia include dizziness and or lightheadedness, difficulty breathing, and chest pain or discomfort. 

What Is a Healthy Heart Rate Range?

A healthy heart rate range falls within normal limits of sixty to one-hundred beats per minute at rest. This means that when you are not exercising, your heart rate is generally within normal limits if it falls between 60 and 100 beats in a minute. 

How Can I Measure My Heart Rate?

An easy way to measure your heart rate is to check your pulse with your fingers and wrist. To do so, take your index and middle finger in your hand and gently place them over the other hand's wrist. Move your fingers around in this area until you can feel your pulse, or heartbeat, through your wrist. 

Once you can feel your pulse, count the beats you feel in 15 seconds. Next, multiply this number by four to get the number of times your heart beats in one minute at rest. 

When Should You Seek Emergency Medical Attention for a Rapid Heart Rate?

Tachycardia often does not present with complications that require immediate medical attention, especially if you experience a rapid heart rate after exercise. 

However, if you experience a rapid heart rate that does not return to a normal rhythm after physical exertion, or if you experience tachycardia at rest with no apparent cause or explanation, you should talk with your healthcare provider. 

Additionally, if you experience tachycardia alongside other symptoms, including shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, dizziness, syncope (fainting), or confusion, you should seek medical attention immediately. 

Tachycardia can cause other medical complications, like blood clots that can, in turn, lead to a stroke or a heart attack. This is why prompt medical attention is essential for tachycardia that presents with life-threatening symptoms. 

What Causes a Rapid Heart Rate?

Many different heart arrhythmias can cause tachycardia, and not all of them are a concern. Normal physical exertion (such as running or swimming as part of an exercise routine) can cause tachycardia momentarily. 

A higher-than-usual intake of caffeine or alcohol can also cause tachycardia, as can smoking, stress, or anxiety. Sometimes, certain medications incur tachycardia as a side effect. 

In rare cases, tachycardia can be a sign of heart disease, like a heart attack. Risk factors for heart disease, such as family history, high blood pressure, and obesity, can all cause tachycardia as well.

Are There Different Types of Irregular Heart Rhythms?

Yes, there are different types of irregular heart rhythms based on which area of your heart (what chamber and ventricle) is affected and what is causing the arrhythmia. 

Let's take a look at the different types of tachycardia below. 

Atrial Fibrillation

The atria are the upper chambers of your heart muscle. Atrial fibrillation, or A-fib, occurs when there are rapid, irregular heartbeats in the atria. 

Atrial Flutter

While A-fib involves rapid and often hectic or scattered heartbeats in the atria, atrial flutter involves more consistent flutters. 

Ventricular tachycardia

The ventricles are the lower chambers of your heart muscle. With ventricular tachycardia, the ventricles cannot transport enough blood to the rest of the body — the irregular heartbeat patterns prevent them from expanding or contracting with an adequate blood supply to do so. 

Supraventricular Tachycardia

This type of tachycardia involves an irregular heartbeat due to affected muscle areas just above the ventricles. With supraventricular tachycardia, a person will usually experience a throbbing or dull, pounding heartbeat rather than a fluttering one. 

Ventricular Fibrillation

Just as atrial fibrillation involves hectic arrhythmias, ventricular fibrillation involves rapid and hectic heartbeats in the ventricle areas of the muscle. Instead of properly expanding and contracting as regular muscles do, the ventricles can only vibrate and shake quickly. 

Sinus Tachycardia

Your heart has a sinoatrial node, which sends electrical signals that regulate how often your heart beats. If you are exercising, or if you are startled or feeling very anxious, then your sinoatrial node sends an onset of rapid signals more often for a brief moment. This causes a temporary rapid heartbeat. 

How Can You Maintain a Healthy Heart Rate?

Fortunately, there are practices you can engage in to maintain a healthy heart rate, like maintaining a well-balanced diet and getting enough exercise. 

Additionally, participating in a cardiac rehab program is another way to help maintain a healthy heart rate. Let’s take a look at each of these options in more detail below. 

Eat a Balanced Diet

Eating a well-balanced, heart-healthy diet is an easy way to help maintain a good heart rate. 

A diet that is healthy for your heart includes a lot of fruits and vegetables. Try adding plenty of fresh berries to your breakfast, and incorporate leafy greens with your lunch and dinner. A salad with different types of vegetables and sometimes even fruit is a great way to get in several servings of fruits and veggies. 

A heart-healthy diet also includes lots of whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes, as well as lean meats, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats. Healthy fats include those rich in omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids. Fish, lean meats, nuts, and beans are all great sources of omega-3. 

At the same time that you bolster your diet with these healthy food choices, try to limit the amount of saturated fatty acids and refined carbohydrates you consume to support your cardiac wellness. Processed foods like cookies, cakes, sugars, and packaged snacks are all unhealthy options that do not benefit your heart health in the long run.

Get Enough Exercise

It is important to stay physically active as part of a well-balanced lifestyle routine for your heart health. In general, aim to exercise for 30 to 45 minutes several times a week (three to four times a week if possible). The more you stay active, the more you promote your heart health and your overall wellness. 

Exercise does not have to be intense to count as physical movement. Choose activities you enjoy, such as going for a nice walk, a bike ride, or a swim. Moreover, make sure that you gradually ease back into exercise if you are recovering from a cardiac medical injury. 

Consider Cardiac Rehab

Cardiac rehabilitation is a program designed to help support you as you recover from a cardiac event. The program combines supervised exercise with a comprehensive education to help you work towards your recovery goals. 

Carda offers at-home virtual cardiac care on your own schedule. With personalized care from the same expert physiologist you are assigned, to a Carda Care Package, to live monitoring equipment, we provide you with all the tools you need to feel supported and successful in your cardiac wellness journey. 

The Bottom Line

Tachycardia is a cardiac condition characterized by a rapid heart rate at rest. While tachycardia can occur as a lingering effect of physical activity, sometimes, an underlying medical condition can make tachycardia a more serious experience requiring medical attention. 

If you experience a racing heartbeat that persists at rest, talk to your healthcare provider about potential causes and treatment options. Sometimes, there can be an underlying health condition, like heart disease, that is causing tachycardia. 

If you think you are at risk for heart disease, talk to your healthcare provider about ways to manage your risk factors and work towards improved cardiac wellness. Sometimes even simple changes like an improved diet, more exercise, and participation in a cardiac rehabilitation program like Carda’s can significantly lower your risk factors. 


Tachycardia: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment | Cleveland Clinic

Tachycardia: Fast Heart Rate | American Heart Association

Want to check your heart rate? Here’s how | Harvard Health

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