Heart Rate Suddenly Jumps: Why and How to Help

Under normal conditions, a healthy adult’s heart rate range from 60 to 100 beats per minute. There may be a sudden occasional increase in heart beat, which resolves in a couple of minutes. The condition is referred to as tachycardia and is generally harmless. However, if your increased heart beat is recurring or persistent or if other symptoms are also present, then you should consult a physician.

What Are the Symptoms of Sudden Increase in Heart Rate?

When the heart beats too quickly, it is not able to effectively pump blood to the other organs of your body. This may deprive the tissues and organs of your body of oxygen and may result in the following symptoms and signs related to tachycardia:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased pulse rate
  • Chest pain
  • Heart palpitations, irregular, uncomfortable or racing heartbeat or flopping sensation in chest
  • Fainting or syncope

In some individuals, tachycardia may produce no symptoms and signs and the condition is discovered when a physical exam is conducted or during an electrocardiogram (a test to monitor heart).

When to Visit Your Physician?

Symptoms of tachycardia and increased heart rate can be caused by numerous medical conditions. It’s imperative to get accurate and prompt diagnosis of the condition and appropriate treatment. You should visit your physician if either your kid or you develop any symptoms of tachycardia.

If you develop a fainting episode, have difficulty in breathing or develop chest pain that lasts longer than few minutes, it is imperative to get immediate emergency medical care or you should call your local medical emergency number or 911. You should seek immediate emergency care if anyone else is having these symptoms.

Complications

The severity of complications of sudden increase in heart rate varies, depending on several factors including the kind of tachycardia, the duration and rate of tachycardia and presence of other problems of heart. Some of the possible complications are:

  • Blood clots, which may lead to heart attack or stroke
  • Heart failure, which is characterized by inability of heart to pump sufficient quantity of blood
  • Frequent spells of fainting or unconsciousness
  • Sudden death, which is usually associated with ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia

What Are the Possible Causes?

Tachycardia is usually caused by anything that creates a problem with the electrical impulses, which control rate of the pumping action of the heart. There are multiple things that can disrupt the electrical system of the heart. Some of these are:

  • Damage to tissues of the heart due to heart disease
  • Anemia
  • Congenital disease or abnormality of heart
  • Electrical pathways that are not normal and present in the heart at birth (congenital conditions such as long QT syndrome)
  • Exercise
  • Low or high blood pressure
  • Sudden stress, for instance fright
  • Smoking
  • Drinking excessive alcohol
  • Fever
  • Drinking excessive caffeine containing beverages
  • Side effects of medicines
  • Recreational drug abuse, such as cocaine
  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
  • Electrolyte imbalance (as minerals are required for proper conduction of electrical impulses)

In certain cases, the cause of sudden increase in heart rate can’t exactly be found.  

Risk Factors

The risk of getting tachycardia is increased by any condition, which strains the heart or causes damage to the tissues of the heart. Medical treatment or lifestyle changes may lower the risk that is increased by the below mentioned factors:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Sleep apnea
  • Smoking
  • Underactive or overactive thyroid gland
  • Diabetes
  • Heavy use of caffeine
  • Heavy use of alcohol
  • Anemia
  • Psychological anxiety or stress
  • Use of drugs of recreation

Certain other factors, which may raise your risk of getting tachycardia, are:

  • Older age: Elderly are at an increased risk of getting tachycardia due to wear and tear of the heart related to age.
  • Family: Positive family history of heart rhythm disorders and tachycardia in particular increases your risk.

Medical Tests

In case you are having a sudden increase in heart rate, your physician may do some tests on you to find the cause of the problem. An electrocardiogram is a recording of the electric signals produced by your heart. This test is non-invasive and may be done in a physician’s office or you may be sent home along with a portable device so that you can take the test while you are at home. The physician may also conduct an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of the heart. Other tests are a tilt table test and an electrophysiological test.

What Are the Treatment Options?

Vagal Maneuvers

Your heartbeat is regulated by the vagal nerve. Maneuvers, which affect vagal nerve are heaving (like you were passing stool), coughing and putting an ice pack on your face.

Medicine

You can take antiarrhythmic drugs either orally or get them injected. They make the heartbeat normal. The drugs are given in a hospital. The drugs that are available control heart rate; restore normal rhythm of heart or do both. Sometimes, you may need more than one drug to control your tachycardia.

Cardioversion

An electric shock is given to heart using patches or paddles. The electrical impulses of the heart are affected by this and this helps in restoring normal rhythm. This is done in hospital.

Learn the Prevention Measures

Certain measures can be taken to prevent a sudden increase in heartbeat or it becoming a health concern.

Ablation by Radiofrequency Catheter

Catheters are made to enter the heart through blood vessels. Electrodes are present at the catheter ends; they are heated and used to damage or ablate the small area of heart that is causing the fast heartbeat.

Medicines

Anti-arrhythmic drugs, if taken regularly can help in preventing tachycardia. Your physician may prescribe other medicines that should be taken along with anti-arrhythmic drugs including channel blockers, such as Cardizem (diltiazem) and Calan (verapamil), or beta-blockers, such as Inderal (propranolol) and Brevibloc (esmolol).

ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator)

It is a device, which monitors your heartbeat continuously. It is implanted surgically into the chest. It detects any abnormality in heartbeat and gives electric shocks to bring back heart rhythm to normal.

Surgery

In some cases surgery is required to remove an area of tissue. This is only done in cases where other therapies are ineffective or if the patient has another disorder of the heart.

Warfarin

Warfarin makes blood clotting difficult and is generally given to persons who have moderate or high risk of having heart attack or stroke. Though, with warfarin the risk of bleeding is raised, it is given to persons, in whom, the risk of heart attack or stroke is greater in comparison to risk of bleeding.

 
 
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