What is Tachycardia?

Tachycardia is a fast heart rate, which means a resting heart rate above 100 beats per minute.
Although a fast heart beat is normal during exercise or as a response to stress or illness, the term tachycardia is used for a faster heart rate due to conditions which are not related to normal physiological stress.

Video simulating a fast heartbeat. Taking care of your heart.
Video simulating a fast heartbeat. Taking care of your heart.

Types of tachycardia

Atrial Fibrillation is an irregular heart rate that affects upper chambers of the heart (atria).

It prevents blood from being pumped efficiently to the rest of your body.

Atrial Fibrillation is the most frequent type of tachycardia.

Atrial flutter is similar to atrial fibrillation.

In atrial flutter, the heartbeats are more organized and rhythmic electrical impulses than in atrial fibrillation. You cannot feel the difference between atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter; and ECG is needed to get the right diagnosis

Like atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter can cause serious complications, such as a stroke.

Supraventricular tachycardia is an abnormally fast heartbeat that has its origin above the ventricles. There are different types of supraventricular tachycardia, the most common ones are atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter.

Ventricular tachycardia is the accelerated heart rate that has its origin in the heart’s lower chambers (ventricles). An accelerated heart rate often does not allow ventricles to fill up and contract efficiently to pump enough blood to the body.

Episodes of ventricular tachycardia can be brief and last only a couple of seconds without causing harm. But those that last more than a few seconds can become a life-threatening medical emergency.

Ventricular fibrillation occurs when accelerated and chaotic electrical impulses cause the ventricles to quiver ineffectively instead of pumping blood effectively into the body. This can be fatal if the heart does not return to a normal rate within minutes. An electric shock to the heart with the use of a defibrillator can help to return the heart to a normal heart rate

Ventricular fibrillation can occur during or after a heart attack, but it can also be caused by electrical abnormalities in the heart. Although many people who experience ventricular fibrillation have pre-existing heart disease, some do not have any pre-existing symptoms or heart problems.

Risk factors

  • Previous heart attack (myocardial infarction)
  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Chronic pulmonary disease
  • Arteriosclerosis
  • Inflammatory or degenerative cardiomyopathies
  • Congenital heart defects (pathology you are born with)
  • Family history of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)
  • Sleep apnea
  • Overactive or underactive thyroid
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking, drugs or alcohol abuse
  • Anemia
  • Heart failure (poor pumping heart)

Tachycardia symptoms

Some people with tachycardia have no symptoms, and the condition is only detected during a physical exam or exercise test. When people have symptoms, most frequently these are:

When discussing with your doctor, you may want to use this document to help guide the conversation

When discussing with your doctor, you may want to use this document to help guide the conversation

Step 1

What is Tachycardia?