Tachycardia refers to a heartbeat that is too fast. As written on the American Heart Association website , for adults, a heart rate of more than 100 beats per minute (BPM) is considered too fast.
In general, the heart of a resting adult beats between 60 and 100 beats per minute. When a person has tachycardia, the upper or lower chambers of the heart beat significantly faster.
When it beats too fast, the heart will be less efficient at pumping and flowing blood throughout the body, including the heart itself.
Because the heart beats faster, the muscles of the heart, or myocardium, need more oxygen. If this continues, myocardial cells that are deprived of oxygen can die. This condition causes heart attacks.
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Causes of Tachycardia
Tachycardia is generally caused by disruption of the normal electrical impulses that control the pumping action of our heart, the rate at which our heart pumps. The following situations, conditions and diseases are possible causes:
Reactions to certain drugs
Congenital heart defects
Too much alcohol consumption
Consumption of cocaine and some other recreational drugs
Heart disease that results in poor blood supply and damage to heart tissue, including coronary artery disease, heart valve disease, heart failure, heart muscle disease, tumors, or infections
An overactive thyroid gland
Certain lung diseases
Although there are several situations and conditions that can cause tachycardia, sometimes, the medical team may not be able to identify the exact cause of the tachycardia.
Symptoms of Tachycardia
Symptoms of tachycardia include:
Hard to breathe
However, some people with tachycardia have no symptoms and this condition is only discovered during a physical exam or by heart monitoring tests.
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Types of tachycardia
There are several types of tachycardia that may occur. The following is the review.
1. Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation is a rapid heartbeat caused by chaotic and irregular electrical impulses in the upper chambers of the heart (atria). These signals produce rapid, uncoordinated, weak contractions of the atria.
Atrial fibrillation may be temporary, but some episodes will not end unless treated. This is the most common type of tachycardia.
2. Atrial Flutter
In atrial flutter, the atria of the heart beat very fast but at a regular rate. The rapid rate produces weak contractions for the atria.
3.Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT)
Quoted from the National Health Service , supraventricular tachycardia is an abnormally fast heartbeat that originates somewhere above the ventricles. This is caused by abnormal circuits in the heart that are normally present at birth and create overlapping signal circles.
4. Ventricular tachycardia
Abnormal electrical signals in the ventricles produce a fast heartbeat. The heart rate does not allow the ventricles to fill and contract properly, resulting in poor blood supply to the body. This type of tachycardia is often a life-threatening condition and is treated as a medical emergency.
5. Ventricular Fibrillation
Quoted from Heart.org , the ventricles vibrate in an ineffective way, resulting in poor blood supply to the body. If normal heart rhythms do not recover quickly, blood circulation will stop, causing death.
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Tachycardia can cause several complications. The most common complications of tachycardia include:
Blood clots: This significantly increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Heart failure: If the condition is not controlled, the heart is likely to weaken. This can lead to heart failure. Heart failure occurs when the heart doesn't pump blood around the body efficiently or properly. The left, right, or even both sides of the body can be affected.
Fainting: A person with a fast heartbeat can lose consciousness.
Sudden death: This is generally only associated with ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation.
The risk of tachycardia increases if a person has a condition that damages heart tissue or puts a strain on the heart.
The following factors are associated with a higher risk of tachycardia:
Age: People over 60 years of age have a significantly higher risk of developing tachycardia, compared to younger people
Genetics: People who have close relatives with tachycardia or other heart rhythm disorders have a higher risk of developing the condition themselves.
Other potential risk factors include:
consume large amounts of caffeine and alcohol on a regular basis
high blood pressure
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A doctor can usually diagnose tachycardia by asking a few questions about symptoms, do a physical exam, and do some tests as quoted Medicalnewstoday . This may include:
Electrocardiogram (EKG). Electrodes are attached to the skin to measure the electrical impulses emitted by the heart. This test will also show any previous heart disease that may have contributed to the tachycardia.
Echocardiogram. An echocardiogram is a type of ultrasound examination. By bouncing sound from structures in the body and registering the echoes, a moving image of the heart can be produced. This can help look for structural or congenital abnormalities that may play a role in the tachycardia.
Blood test. This helps determine whether thyroid problems or other substances may be a contributing factor to tachycardia.
Holter Monitor. People with tachycardia wear portable devices that record all of their heartbeats. It is worn under clothing and records information about the electrical activity of the heart while the person performs their normal activities for 1 or 2 days.
Heart activity recorder. This device is similar to a Holter monitor, but does not record all heartbeats. There are two types, one type uses the telephone to transmit a signal from the recorder when the person is experiencing symptoms, and the other type is used all the time for a long time. This can sometimes be worn for a month. This recording device is great for diagnosing rhythm disturbances that occur at random moments.
Electrophysiological testing (EP study). This is an invasive non-surgical test, is relatively painless and can help determine the type of arrhythmia , its origin, and potential response to treatment. The test is performed in the EP laboratory by an electrophysiologist and makes it possible to reproduce bothersome arrhythmias in a controlled setting.
Tilt table test. If a person experiences fainting or dizziness, and neither the ECG nor Holter shows an arrhythmia, a tilt table test may be performed. It monitors blood pressure, heart rhythm, and heart rate as they are moved from a lying position to an upright position. Reflexes working properly cause the heart rate and blood pressure to change when moved to an upright position. This is to ensure that the brain gets an adequate blood supply. If the reflexes are inadequate, this could explain the fainting spells and associated symptoms.
Chest X-ray. X-ray images help doctors check the state of an individual's heart and lungs. Other conditions that explain tachycardia may also be detected.
Tachycardia does not always require drugs, but must be adjusted according to the type and cause.
To confirm tachycardia and investigate the cause further, the doctor needs to perform several investigations, such as doing an electrocardiography, blood test, heart scan, stress test , electrophysiological test, and tilt table test.
There are several ways to slow a fast heart rate during an episode.
1. Vagal Maneuvers
The vagus nerve helps regulate heart rate.
Several techniques, or maneuvers, can affect these nerves and help slow down the heart rate. These techniques include:
stimulates the gag reflex
apply abdominal pressure
applying cold water to the person's face
apply gentle pressure to the neck area where the carotid arteries are located
closing the nostrils when the person exhales through the nose
This may be useful in an emergency.
A health care professional can also apply gentle pressure to the eyeball when the person closes the eye.
A doctor can give antiarrhythmic drugs either orally or intravenously. This drug aims to restore a normal heart rhythm and control heart rate.
Some examples of anti-arrhythmic drugs include amiodarone (Cordarone), sotalol (Betapace), and mexiletine (Mexitil).
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3. Cardioversion and Defibrillator
According to the journal Cardioversion , a healthcare provider can attach patches, or electrodes, to a person's body with a fast heartbeat and have a machine send electric shocks to their heart.
This affects the electrical impulses in the heart and can restore a normal rhythm.
There are various ways to perform cardioversion. Among others are the following:
In an emergency: While waiting for medical help to arrive, first responders or observers can use an automatic external defibrillator if the person's heart is following a rhythm that prevents it from beating properly.
In the hospital: A cardiologist may use cardioversion as part of scheduled care.
Continuous care: The implanted cardioverter defibrillator can continuously monitor the person's heart rate . A cardiologist can implant a small device into the chest, where it detects abnormal heartbeats and delivers a shock to restore a normal rhythm when needed.
There are certain actions that can prevent your heartbeat from becoming too fast (tachycardia) or from escalating to health problems. Among others:
Radio frequency catheter ablation. The catheter enters the heart through a blood vessel. The electrodes at the end of the catheter are heated to erode, or they are damaged. the small part of the heart that is responsible for abnormal heartbeats.
Medicines . If taken regularly, anti-arrhythmic drugs can prevent tachycardia. A doctor may prescribe another medication to take in combination with an antiarrhythmic, for example, channel blockers, such as diltiazem (Cardizem) and verapamil (Calan), or beta-blockers, such as propranolol (Inderal) and esmolol (Brevibloc).
Implanted cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). A device that continuously monitors the heart rate is implanted into the chest surgically. The ICD detects heart rate abnormalities and delivers electric shocks to restore a normal heart rhythm.
Operation. Sometimes, surgery is needed to remove some tissue. The surgeon can create a scar tissue pattern. Scar tissue is a poor conductor of electricity. This procedure is generally only used if other therapies have been ineffective, or if the person has other heart defects.
New oral anticoagulants (NOAC), or blood thinners. NOAC complicates blood clotting and is given to individuals at high risk or currently having a stroke or heart attack.