What is tachycardia (heart palpitations)? What causes heart palpitations?

By | 9 May 2021

What is tachycardia (heart palpitations)? What causes heart palpitations?

Tachycardia, or heart palpitations, is a common type of heart rhythm disorder in which the heart beats faster than normal when the person is at rest. An increase in heart rate as a physiological response to exercise, stress, trauma, or illness is normal and is called sinus tachycardia. This happens because the sinus node in the right atrium, which provides the heart’s natural heart stimulation, sends electrical signals faster than normal. The heart rate is increased, but there is no rhythm disturbance. In pathological tachycardias, the heart beats faster than normal in the upper or lower chambers or both at rest. Because the heart beats faster, the need for oxygen of the heart muscles (myocardium) increases. If this condition continues for a long time, myocardial cells may die due to oxygen deficiency, which can lead to a heart attack.

What is tachycardia?

Tachycardia, also called tachyarrhythmia, is when the heart rate exceeds normal during listening. Generally, for adults, a resting heart rate above 100 beats per minute is considered tachycardia. Heart palpitations can be dangerous depending on the underlying cause and how long the heart has to work. Some people with tachycardia may have no symptoms or complications. However, it significantly increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, sudden cardiac arrest, and death.

What causes heart palpitations?

Heart rate is controlled by electrical signals sent from the heart tissue. The normal heart rate is about 60 to 100 beats per minute. Heart palpitations develop as a result of the rapid generation of electrical signals due to an abnormality in heart tissue. When the heart beats too fast, the efficiency of pumping blood around the body decreases. The result is reduced blood flow to the rest of the body, including the heart itself.

What are the causes of heart palpitations?

Heart palpitations are usually caused by a disturbance in the normal electrical impulses that control the pumping action of the heart. Sometimes the exact cause of tachycardia cannot be determined. The following conditions, conditions, and illnesses are among possible causes of tachycardia:

  • Reaction to certain medications
  • Some congenital anomalies of the heart
  • Consuming too much alcohol
  • Use of cocaine and some other drugs
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart valve disease
  • Heart failure
  • Heart muscle disease
  • Heart tumors
  • Infections in the heart
  • Hypertension
  • Overactive thyroid gland
  • To smoke
  • Some lung diseases

What are the symptoms of tachycardia?

Heart palpitations can deprive organs and tissues of oxygen and cause the following tachycardia symptoms and complaints:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Acceleration in heart rate
  • Feeling the heartbeat
  • Chest discomfort
  • Chest pain
  • Fainting (syncope)

What are the types of tachycardia?

There are many different types of abnormal tachycardia and they are classified according to the origin and cause of a normally rapid heartbeat. Common types of tachycardia are described below.

Supraventricular tachycardia
Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) is an abnormally fast heart rhythm caused by improper electrical activity in the upper part of the heart. The heart rate is so high that the chambers cannot fill with blood before contracting. This, in turn, reduces blood flow to the rest of the body. There are four main types. These can be listed as atrial fibrillation, paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT), atrial flutter, and Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome.

Atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is a type of tachycardia caused by chaotic, irregular electrical signals in the upper chambers of the heart, medically called the atrium. These mixed signals cause rapid, irregular, and weak contractions of the atria. Atrial fibrillation can be temporary, but sometimes it doesn’t go away without treatment. Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of tachycardia. Factors that can contribute to atrial fibrillation include hypertension, heart disease, heart valve disorder, hyperthyroidism, or heavy alcohol use.
Atrial flutter. In atrial flutter, the upper chambers of the heartbeat very quickly, but at a steady rate. The fast beat causes weak contractions in the atrium. Atrial flutter is caused by an irregular circuit system in the atrium. Atrial flutter attacks may resolve on their own or require treatment. People who experience atrial flutter often also experience atrial fibrillation at other times.

Ventricular tachycardia
Ventricular tachycardia is heart palpitations caused by erroneously firing electrical signals in the lower chambers of the heart, called the ventricles in the medical literature. Ventricular tachycardia is a heart rate of more than 100 beats per minute with at least three consecutive irregular heartbeats. As in supraventricular tachycardia, the heart beats rapidly and the heart chambers cannot be filled with blood. Therefore, sufficient blood cannot be pumped to the rest of the body.

How is tachycardia treated?

Treatment options vary depending on the cause of the palpitations, the age of the patient, and general health status. To plan the treatment correctly, the primary goal is to determine the underlying cause. A treatment plan is prepared to reduce the frequency of tachycardia, prevent recurrence and minimize the risk of complications. In some cases, all that is needed is to treat the cause of the bump. In other cases, an underlying cause cannot be found, and in this case, different treatments may need to be tried. Some of the methods used in the treatment are as follows:

  • Vagal maneuver. The vagal nerve regulates the heart rate. Heart rate can be slowed down through maneuvers that affect this nerve. Vagal maneuvers include coughing, straining, and placing an ice pack on the person’s face.
  • Antiarrhythmic Drugs. Antiarrhythmic drugs can be administered orally or by injection. They help restore a normal heartbeat. More than one antiarrhythmic drug may be required to achieve normal heart rhythm.
  • Cardioversion. In this procedure, electrical shock is applied to the heart using spoons or tapes stuck to the chest. The current affects the electrical signals in the heart and restores the normal heart rhythm. It is often used when urgent treatment is needed or when maneuvers and medications are not effective.
  • Defibrillation. It is used in the emergency treatment of life-threatening arrhythmias where the pulse cannot be obtained in the patient. It is especially preferred in ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia where blood is not pumped to the body.

What is good for heart palpitations?

Although medical assistance is essential to control unexplained heart palpitations, some home remedies can also help stop the palpitations.

Stress can have many bad effects on a person’s health. It can cause heart palpitations or make existing palpitations worse. Trying the following relaxation techniques can help reduce palpitations:

  • Meditation
  • Breathing exercises
  • Yoga
  • Spending time outdoors
  • sport
  • Go on holiday

Heart palpitations may occur after using a stimulant. Reducing or discontinuing the intake of the following stimulant substances can reduce or eliminate symptoms:

  • Tobacco products
  • Illegal drugs such as cocaine, cannabis
  • Some cold and cough medicines
  • Caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea, and cola
  • Certain appetite suppressants
  • Some psychiatric medications
  • Some high blood pressure medications
  • Not all stimulants cause palpitations in everyone.

The vagus nerve provides a connection between the brain and the heart. Stimulating the vagus nerve can help reduce palpitations. For this purpose, the following maneuvers can be performed:

  • Holding the breath and straining as if defecating
  • Coughing
  • Putting ice or cold damp towel on the face and waiting for a few seconds
  • Burp
  • Washing the face with cold water
  • Taking a cold shower

Before trying these methods, it is a good idea to consult a healthcare facility for medical treatment and advice on the best technique.


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