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The abnormally fast heartbeat is called as tachycardia. This increase in heart rate can be signs of illness that can be serious and life-threatening. There are different kinds of tachycardia, depending on the origin of the abnormal electrical signal.

Is Beating of the Heart Faster than Normal Called as Tachycardia?

Many times our hearts may beat faster than normal such as after vigorous exercise, running, brisk walking or jogging, due to a sudden scare, in anticipation, etc. This faster than normal beating of the heart is not considered as tachycardia. Tachycardia is a condition when the resting heart beats reach more than 100 times per minute. The heart rate in the upper and lower chambers is affected by tachycardia. This occurs when the electrical signals across the heart tissues becomes abnormal.
The excessive or rapid heartbeats reduce the efficiency of the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body. This causes the heart to require more oxygen and blood to overcome the deficiency, leading to ischemia.There are no significant symptoms of tachycardia, but it increases one's risk of developing sudden cardiac arrest or death.

Types of Tachycardia

There are three types of tachycardia that are categorized according to the point of location of the abnormal electrical signal.

Ventricular Tachycardia

When the lower chambers, that is, the ventricles develop a fast heart rate, it is called as ventricular tachycardia. This is a serious condition that requires immediate medical diagnosis and treatment.
When the electrical signals in the ventricles turn abnormal, they start interfering with the signals coming from the sinoatrial node (SA node). The SA node is the natural pacemaker of the heart. The rapid beating of the heart, leaves no time for the chambers to be filled with blood, leading to reduction in blood supply getting pumped into the body.

Causes of Ventricular Tachycardia

The causes of ventricular tachycardia are certain disorders that can cause disruption in the normal electrical signal of the heart. These include:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Hypertension
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Heart valve disease
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Formation of scar tissue in the heart after a cardiac surgery or myocardial infarction
  • Other than these disorders of the heart it can occur due to:
  • Imbalance in the electrolyte levels that regulate the heart rhythm
  • Consumption of excessive alcohol
  • Excessive caffeine intake
  • Use of recreational drugs
  • Age
  • Family history of heart rhythm disorders

Symptoms of Ventricular Tachycardia

Symptoms of ventricular tachycardia occur when the heart cannot pump enough oxygen to the body. These symptoms may not appear in every patient suffering from ventricular tachycardia. Symptoms that may occur include:

  • Dizziness
  • Light-headedness
  • Palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath

Some people may suffer from a fainting spell, sudden cardiac arrest due to lack of oxygen for more than a few seconds. Death may occur if the regular heart rhythm does not begin in 3 to 4 minutes.

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Diagnosis of Ventricular Tachycardia

Diagnosis of ventricular tachycardia includes an electrocardiogram (ECG) test. Other tests include:

  • Holter monitor
  • IntracardiacElectrophysiology study (EPS)
  • Loop recorder

Treatment of Ventricular Tachycardia

Treatment for ventricular tachycardia includes medications to reduce the heart rate. Some patients may be advised implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). Cardiac ablation is a common procedure that helps treat abnormal electrical signals.

Atrial Tachycardia

The second type of tachycardia is atrial tachycardia. It is also called supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). The fast heart rate in this case begins in the upper chambers of the heart. There are other forms of atrial tachycardia, that includes, paroxysmal atrial tachycardia (PAT) or paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT).
When the electrical signals in the upper chambers are abnormal, they start interfering with the SA node. This increases the heart rate in the atria. The chambers do not get filled with blood on time, leading to reduction in blood and oxygen supply to the entire body.
Atrial tachycardia is very common in children, women, people who are physically weak, heavy alcohol or caffeine drinkers, chronic smokers, etc. The SVT may occur suddenly and end suddenly. A single episode of atrial tachycardia may be a few seconds to a few hours long. In this condition the heart may beat up to 120-160 times/minute.

Symptoms of atrial tachycardia

The atrial tachycardia is not a life-threatening condition. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • Light-headedness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Chest pains
  • Shortness of breath
  • Consciousness or cardiac arrest in extreme cases

Diagnosis of atrial tachycardia

The usual ECG helps in diagnosis of tachycardia. A heart scan may also be conducted in some cases.

Treatment of atrial tachycardia

Atrial tachycardia does not require any treatment as such. Treatment if considered, may include:

  • Reduction of caffeine, alcohol, tobacco intake
  • Sedation
  • Blowing of air through closed nostrils (Valsalva maneuver)

Sinus Tachycardia

This is not a serious condition. Sinus tachycardia is a condition where the increase in heart rate is considered normal. This occurs when the electrical signals from the SA nodes are passed faster than normal. This causes the heart rate to increase, but the heart beats remain normal.

Causes of sinus tachycardia

The increase in heart rate can occur as the body ‘s natural reaction to certain actions. These include:

  • Anxiety
  • Fever
  • Vigorous exercise
  • Sudden scare
  • Use of street drugs
  • Hemorrhage
  • Anemia
  • Abnormal thyroid levels

The symptom in this case is a fast beating heart. The treatment required is usually correcting the underlying cause, rather than the sinus tachycardia itself.

This was all about tachycardia. The management of tachycardia depends on the person’s condition, type of tachycardia and the instability occurring due to tachycardia. One should take care of the heart health, as abnormal  heart beats and rate can lead to cardiac arrest and death.

Written by: healthplus24.com team

Date last updated: June 05th, 2015

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