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Tachycardia is a type of heart arrhythmia when the heart rate is faster than 100 beats per minute (bpm).

heart providers peforming electrophysiology studies on patient in lab

What is tachycardia?

Tachycardia is a type of heart arrhythmia when the heart rate is faster than 100 beats per minute (bpm). A normal resting heartbeat ranges from 60 to 100 bpm. A rapid heart rate can prevent the heart from adequately filling up with blood in between beats. This becomes dangerous if the heart cannot supply the blood with the oxygen it requires. The type of heart arrhythmia when your heart rate is too slow is called bradycardia.

Tachycardia can be mild or the result of something more life-threatening. Treatments for tachycardia depend on the type of tachycardia you have.

Types of tachycardia 

The type of tachycardia can be determined by where the rapid heartbeat originates—the upper atria or the lower ventricles. Some types of tachycardia are much more severe than others.   

Sinus tachycardia 

An increased heart rate due to exercise, stress, fear, medications, or fever can be completely normal and is called sinus tachycardia. If your heart is beating fast for no reason, it is called inappropriate sinus tachycardia. 

Supraventricular tachycardia 

This type of tachycardia originates in the upper chambers of the heart (atria). It can cause heart palpitations that start and stop quickly. Atrial flutter and atrial fibrillation (AFib) are the two most common supraventricular tachycardias.

Ventricular tachycardia 

With ventricular tachycardia, rapid rhythms come from the heart's lower chambers (ventricles). Episodes of ventricular tachycardia can cause the heart to beat up to 200 bpm and may last only a few seconds. Longer episodes can be life-threatening. Ventricular fibrillation (VFib) is a severe ventricular tachycardia that can cause cardiac arrest. 

What are the symptoms of tachycardia?

Not everyone will feel the signs and symptoms of tachycardia. Instead, the condition may not be discovered until a physical exam is performed. Symptoms of a rapid heartbeat can include: 

  • Heart palpitations, pounding, or racing heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Fainting
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness
  • Rapid pulse
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatiguing quickly during exercise

Seek immediate medical attention if you are experiencing chest pain, fainting, shortness of breath, dizziness, or lightheadedness. Learn what your heart rate is telling you and the signs you need to see a cardiologist

What causes tachycardia? 

Causes of high heart rate can range from increased exertion to a severe heart condition or another underlying health issue. Common causes of tachycardia can include fever, exercise, stress, alcohol and drug use, electrolyte imbalance, and too much caffeine.  

Underlying health issues that can contribute to tachycardia include:

  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Anemia
  • Lung disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Heart failure

Complications from tachycardia 

Complications of tachycardia depend on what is causing the increased heart rate. Your overall health, the severity of the tachycardia, type, and other heart conditions are all factors. Complications of tachycardia could include fainting, stroke caused by a blood clot, low blood pressure, heart failure, and cardiac arrest.

Tachycardia diagnosis 

Since there are many different causes of tachycardia, there are a variety of methods for diagnosing the cause of the rapid heart rate. In addition to a physical examination, a doctor will likely order tests to confirm or rule out the cause.

  • Blood tests: Can rule out thyroid problems or other causes detected in the blood
  • Holter monitor: A portable ECG that monitors electrical activity in your body for 24 hours
  • Event recorder: A portable ECG that records when a button is pressed in response to an irregular heartbeat
  • Echocardiogram: Images of a heart are created based on sound waves from this test
  • Stress test: Examines the heart during physical activity, including running on a treadmill or a stationary bike
  • Chest X-ray: An X-ray image the doctor uses to see the lungs and heart
  • Tilt table test: A test to determine if dizziness or fainting occurs due to a heart rate or blood pressure issue

Tachycardia treatment 

The treatment for tachycardia will depend on the cause. Treatment options usually address slowing the rapid heartbeat and preventing future tachycardia episodes by treating the underlying cause. Treatment options might include:

  • Medications: Taking beta-blockers or calcium channel blockers can slow heart rate 
  • Vagal Maneuvers: Stimulating your vagus nerve can help reset your heart’s electrical impulses. These should only be done under a doctor’s supervision
  • Cardioversion: An electric shock to the heart can restore the heart’s natural rhythm. This could be used in combination with medication or if vagal maneuvers and medications are no longer effective
  • Catheter Ablation: A flexible tube (the catheter) inserted into the heart uses hot or cold energy to block irregular heartbeats and restore the heart’s natural rhythm
  • Pacemaker: A small device implanted in the chest area sends a pulse to regulate your heartbeat
  • Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator (ICD): A medical device placed under the skin monitors the heart rate and sends an electrical shock when a life-threatening, rapid heartbeat is detected  

Living with tachycardia 

In addition to the treatment plan outlined by your doctor, there are other steps to take for living with tachycardia. A heart-healthy lifestyle is essential. This includes:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Avoiding tobacco products
  • Regular exercise
  • Limiting or avoiding alcohol
  • Limiting caffeine intake
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Managing stress levels through relaxation or breathing techniques

It’s important to follow all instructions provided by your doctor, including taking medications. 


A dangerous heart rate can be too high (more than 100 beats per minute) or too low (less than 60 bpm). Children generally have a higher resting heart rate than adults. Highly conditioned people, like long-distance runners, can have a resting heart rate lower than 60 bpm that isn’t considered dangerous.  

Yes, dehydration can cause your heart rate to increase to compensate for reduced blood volume. Dehydration can also cause an electrolyte imbalance in your system, raising your heart rate. 

Ventricular tachycardia typically occurs when there is damage to the heart muscle. The scar tissue builds up around the heart and prevents the electrical signals from firing correctly. This may be caused by a prior heart attack, heart failure, cardiomyopathy, myocarditis, or heart valve disease. It can also be caused by medications or the use of stimulants

It’s possible to have a ventricular tachycardia episode for only a few seconds and not even be aware it is happening. However, when an episode lasts several seconds or longer, it can become life-threatening, possibly leading to cardiac arrest. You should seek immediate medical attention. 

Some types of tachycardia are extremely severe and, if left untreated, could lead to significant health complications such as heart failure, stroke, or even death.