The number of times a heart beats per minute or the number of times a heart contracts per minute is known as heart rate (HR) or pulse rate. The normal heart rate may slightly vary from person to person, depending upon the age and overall health of the person. As heart health depends upon age, gender, lifestyle, activity level, overall health etc., normal heart rate varies from person to person.
The normal or regular heart rate, measured while resting is called resting heart rate (RHR). About 60 to 100 beats per minute (BPM) is considered as normal heart rate for adults. For an infant, the RHR can be about 110 BPM.
Causes of Rapid Heart Rate
- Long term high blood pressure
- Malfunctioning of the heart valves, problems in blood circulation
- Myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscles
- Pericarditis, inflammation of the pericardium, the fibrous sac that covers the heart
- Dysfunction of the pacemaker of the heart
- Insufficient oxygen supply to the heart muscles
- Coronary heart diseases
- Thyroid problems
- Blood related disorders like thickening of blood
- Faulty upper heart chamber
- People who have survived one or more heart attacks may often notice high heart rate.
- Very high or very low sodium percentage in diet can lead to tachycardia. It leads to electrolyte imbalance that eventually results in tachycardia.
- Lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease wherein non elastic lung tissues seriously affect the pumping capacity of the heart. Arrhythmia is the term used to describe abnormal or irregular HR.
- Atrial fibrillation is one of the most common types of arrhythmia. Contractions of the upper chambers (atria) and lower chambers (ventricles) of the heart do not synchronize.
Factors that Can Raise the HR Temporarily
- Vitamin deficiency
- Certain medications
- Emotional stress, fear, anxiety, nervousness.
- Heavy meal
- Intake of stimulating substances such as tea, coffee, tobacco etc.
- Physical exertion.
Symptoms of Tachycardia
- High pulse rate
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Chest pain
Heart Rate and Heart Health
A healthy heart that has optimal pumping capacity can maintain the normal flow of blood to the body organs by contracting less number of times. Increased HR indicates that the heart has to put extra effort (contract more number of times) to maintain the normal blood flow. Loss of pumping capacity of the heart results in increased work for the heart and hence, requirement of more oxygen for the heart. If the condition is left untreated, it can eventually lead to a heart attack. Insufficient supply of oxygen to the heart leads to death of myocardial cells which can result in angina and eventually to ischemic heart disease.
Heart rate of an individual is not constant all the time. It changes according to the physical activity and mental stress. You must have noticed high heart rate during exercise or during stressful physical activity like running. When you are angry or frightened, your heart starts beating abnormally and you experience heart palpitations. A consistent rapid heartbeat is a cause of worry, as it indicates an abnormal condition of the heart.
During physical examination, doctors always check the HR (pulse rate) of an individual first. The recommended ideal HR may be difficult to attain but you can refer to it and can try to be in the nearby range. Heart rate measurement helps detect abnormal pumping of the heart or occurrence of a heart disease. You can check your own HR regularly and by comparing it with the ideal pulse rate chart, you can keep a close watch on your health.
Rapid heart rate requires prompt treatment, as it puts a strain on the heart, increasing the risk of a heart attack. But, before treating tachycardia, doctors may ask you to change your lifestyle and diet (if they are unhealthy). Drug abuse and excessive consumption of caffeine, alcohol, cholesterol and tobacco can raise your HR and hence should be avoided. Stress management techniques like yoga and meditation help prevent adverse effects of stress on health. Following are three major modes of treating tachycardia.
Antiarrhythmics: Abnormal beating of heart is referred to as arrhythmia. Antiarrhythmics are the medicines that bring back the HR to normal, by suppressing most types of tachycardia.
Electrical Cardioversion: Mild electrical shocks can restore the functioning of the heart to normal. The treatment is more effective if the condition called 'atrial fibrillation' is detected and treated at an earlier stage.
Drug Control: Certain drugs can increase your HR. Inform the doctor about your routine medication. He may change some of the medicines. Instructions of your doctor regarding some changes in lifestyle should be strictly followed.
Although regular exercise helps strengthen the heart muscles, monitoring your HR during exercise is extremely important. You can increase the intensity of an exercise to a certain limit only. Very high heart rate during exercise can be life-threatening. So you should consult the physical trainer before exercising. As explained above, untreated tachycardia can lead to fatal complications.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.