Tachycardia is a condition in which our heart beats at a faster rate than normal. Our heart normally beats 60 to 100 times per minute while a healthy person is at rest. There is a natural pacemaker (the sinus node) located in the right atrium (upper chamber), which controls the rhythm of our heart.
The electrical impulses are produced by the sinus node, which signals the heart to beat. The electrical impulses travel across the atria from the sinus node, making the atria muscles contract and pump blood into the ventricles. In tachycardia, the heart rate in both upper and lower chambers is increased.
- Atrial fibrillation –It occurs when there is a chaotic electrical impulse in the atria, causing rapid heart rates.
- Atrial flutter – It occurs of irregular circuitry within the atria. In this case, the atria beat very fast, but at a regular rate. Individuals undergoing atrial flutter may often experience atrial fibrillation.
- Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) –It originates somewhere above the ventricles. An abnormal circuitry in the heart leads to SVT. SVT is generally present at birth.
- Ventricular tachycardia – It refers to a rapid heart rate originating with abnormal electrical signals in the ventricles. Ventricular tachycardia can become life-threatening.
- Ventricular fibrillation – Ventricular fibrillation happens due to rapid, chaotic electrical impulses that cause the ventricles to shake ineffectively. It hampers the pumping of necessary blood to the body. Ventricular fibrillation is fatal and needs immediate medical attention.
Tachycardia is caused by a disruption in the normal electrical impulses, as a result, the control over the rate, at which our heart pumps, is disturbed.
The possible contributing factors can be –
- Damage in the heart tissues from heart disease
- Congenital (present at birth) problem of abnormal electrical pathways in the heart
- Congenital abnormality of the heart
- Sudden stress, such as fright
- High blood pressure
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Drinking too many caffeinated beverages
- Side effects of some medication
- Recreational drug use
- Electrolyte imbalance to conduct electrical impulses
- Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
Anything that creates stress on the heart or damages heart tissue makes one vulnerable to developing tachycardia. Certain changes in lifestyle or medication can help to decrease the risk of tachycardia.
Apart from the above-mentioned situations, other risk factors include –
- Old age
- Family history of tachycardia or heart rhythm disorder
Our heart cannot effectively pump blood all over our body while beating at a rapid rate. As a result, our organs and tissues become deprived of oxygen, giving rise to tachycardia-related signs and symptoms, which include –
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid pulse rate
- Heart palpitations — an uncomfortable or irregular heartbeat or a sensation of “flopping” in the chest
- Chest pain
- Losing consciousness
- In extreme cases, it may cause cardiac arrest
Sometimes, tachycardia causes no symptoms at all.
Tests and Diagnosis:
Are you staying in Phoenix? If you consult the cardiologist or cardiovascular surgeon in Phoenix, you may evaluate the disease symptoms, perform a physical examination, and may prescribe for certain tests to confirm the diagnosis.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is the primary test suggested by doctors. In ECG, small sensors (electrodes) are attached to your chest, legs, and arms which record electrical signals as they travel through your heart. Analyzing the patterns of the signals, the particular type of tachycardia can be determined.
- The doctor may suggest using portable ECG devices at home for a longer time, to get more information about your heart rate. These devices include –
- Holter monitor to record heart activity
- Event recorder to monitor heart activity over a few weeks to a few months
- An exercise stress test may be recommended by the doctor in which the heart’s activity will be monitored while on a treadmill.
- The electrophysiological test is performed by the doctor to confirm the diagnosis, in which, a thin, flexible tube (catheters), tipped with electrodes is inserted into the groin, arm, or neck, and guided to various spots in your heart through blood vessels. After it’s properly placed, it can identify the abnormalities in the heart.
- A tilt table test is carried out in which the patient is asked to lie flat on a table that is tilted and in this condition, the heart and nervous system response is monitored.
- A magnetic source imaging test is done to measure the heart muscle’s magnetic fields and weaknesses.
A fast heartbeat may be slowed down by practicing some physical movements, medications, or anti-arrhythmic injection. At times, you may require cardioversion, an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), or a pacemaker depending on the severity of the condition.
This is where you should seek a cardiologist so that they can recommend the right treatment. Looking for a cardiologist or vascular surgeon in Phoenix? Connect with Peak Heart and request an appointment for direct consultation.