Tachycardia: Types, Causes and Risk Factors, Symptoms and Treatment

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Tachycardia means that the heart is beating faster than normal or more than 100 beats per minute even at rest that may occur in the both chambers of the heart.

Tachycardia means that the heart is beating faster than normal. In healthy individuals, normal heart rate is  60 to 100 beats per minute while resting, thus when the heart beats more than 100 times a minute, it is considered faster than normal or tachycardia. Although some cases of tachycardia pose no harm to individuals, some of the possible complications include disrupting normal heart function, increase risks of suffering stroke or sudden cardiac arrest, and even death.

To understand tachycardia, one should understand how the heart pumps blood and how heart rate is produced. The heart has its own electrical system that ensures its contraction in a systematic method. The electrical impulse that signals the heart to contract is initiated in the heart’s natural pacemaker, also called the sinoatrial or sinus (SA) node. The signal would then leave the SA node and transmits through the electrical pathway along the heart. The heart would beat either faster or slower depending on the different nerve message. In cases of tachycardia, the heart abnormally produces quick electrical signal.

Types of Tachycardia

The main difference among the three types of tachycardia is the specific location where the tachycardia occurs. The following are the three main types of tachycardia:

  • Atrial or supraventricular tachycardia
  • Occurs when the upper chambers (atria) of the heart signal at an abnormally fast rate
    • Sinus tachycardia (normal increase in heart rate)
    • SA node sends out electrical signals at a more rapid pace than normal
    • Although heart rate is fast, heart beat remains steady
      • Ventricular tachycardia
      • Occurs when the lower chambers (ventricle) of the heart signal at an abnormally fast rate

Causes and Risk Factors of Tachycardia

The following may interrupt the normal electrical impulses of the heart, thus leading to an increase in electrical signals:

  • Damage to the heart as a result of heart disease
  • Congenital or other diseases that lead to abnormal electrical pathways or the heart itself
  • High blood pressure
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Fever
  • Smoking
  • Drinking too much alcohol and/ or other caffeinated drinks
  • Use of recreational drugs too much
  • Electrolyte imbalance

Symptoms of Tachycardia

Although not all cases of tachycardia will show symptoms, it is important to have it diagnosed as it may be life-threatening. The symptoms of tachycardia include:

  • Chest pain
  • Heart palpitations
  • Quick pulse rate
  • Dyspnoea
  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Fainting

Treatment for Tachycardia

The main goal of treatment for tachycardia is to decrease heart rate when it occurs, to prevent upcoming occurrences, and reduce complications. Some of the possible treatment may include:

  • Slowing a fast heart rate
    • Use of vagal manoeuvre to normalize heartbeat
    • Certain medications, such as anti-arrhythmic pills
    • Use of cardioversion that delivers shock to the heart, which will help restore normal rhythm
    • Prevent upcoming occurrences
      • Placer of catheter ablation
      • Certain medications, such as calcium channel blockers and beta-blockers
      • Use of a pacemaker to monitor heart rate and would manufacture electrical impulses necessary to maintain normal rate
      • Use of an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) to monitor heartbeat and may deliver calibrated electrical shocks
      • Open heart surgery
      • Reduce complications
        • Prevent blood clots by taking blood-thinning medications

Disclaimer: This article does not provide medical advice. The information given should not be used for self-diagnosis. Seek medical attention when necessary. It is important to recognise symptoms of potential medical emergencies at all times to avoid complications from developing. To learn more about to how to manage tachycardia and other heart problems, enrol in first aid and CPR courses with credible American and Canadian providers that follow guidelines from the American Heart Association.


Tachycardia. (2011, May 25). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved October 17, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/tachycardia/DS00929

Tachycardia | Fast Heart Rate. (2012, May 30). American Heart Association. Retrieved October 17, 2013, from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Arrhythmia/AboutArrhythmia/Tachycardia-Fast-Heart-Rate_UCM_302018_Article.jsp


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