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Dangerous Heart Rate: What Are Fast Beats And Slow Beats?

No human being has the same heart rate - everybody's got a unique heartbeat. Based on the size and shape of your heart and the orientation of your valves, the heart rate varies but electrically your beats look the same.

The normal resting heart rate for adults, that is, when your heart is pumping the minimal amount of blood that your body, it is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Compared to adults, children have heart rates that are normally faster than those of adults. The normal resting heart rate for a child aged 6 to 15 is between 70 to 100 beats per minute [1] .

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Factors Affecting Heart Rate

Various factors can affect an individual's heart rate, with physical activity being the primary factor. Other factors that can affect an individual's heart rate are as follows [2] :

  • Age
  • Temperature
  • Emotions
  • Bodyweight
  • Temperature
  • Body positioning
  • Smoking habit

What Is A Fast Heart Rate?

Tachycardia is a common type of heart rhythm disorder in which the heart beats faster than normal while at rest. For adults, a fast heart rate is generally defined as a heart rate over 100 beats per minute, however, it all depends on the individual's age and health [3] .

Tachycardia is classified into different groups, based on their cause and the part of the heart they affect. In some cases, tachycardia may cause no symptoms or complications. But if left untreated, tachycardia can disrupt normal heart function and lead to serious complications such as heart failure, stroke and sudden cardiac arrest or death [4] .

When your heart is beating too fast, it may not pump blood effectively to the rest of your body, which can result in your organs and tissues being deprived of oxygen. The symptoms of a fast heart rate or tachycardia are as follows [5] :

  • Fainting (syncope)
  • Lightheadedness
  • Rapid pulse rate
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath

In some individuals, the condition will not cause any symptoms. And in some cases, the exact cause of tachycardia can't be determined. Some of the most common causes of tachycardia are anxiety or stress, heavy caffeine consumption, heavy alcohol consumption, fever etc. There are various treatments and medical aids for the condition, which can help prevent the episodes.

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What Is A Slow Heart Rate?

The hearts of adults at rest usually beat between 60 and 100 times a minute, but when your heart beats fewer than 60 times a minute, it is called a slow heart rate or bradycardia. Studies show that, for physically active people, a heart rate of under 60 beats per minute is normal and even healthy [6] .

A slow heart rate makes it difficult for the oxygen-rich blood to be pumped to your brain and body, resulting in the development of the following symptoms[7] :

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion or memory problems
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pains
  • Easily tiring during physical activity

However, in some people, bradycardia does not cause any symptoms or complications. A slow heart rate can be caused due to heart tissue damage related to ageing, any damage to heart tissues from heart disease or heart attack or inflammatory disease, such as rheumatic fever or lupus etc.

High blood pressure, smoking, heavy alcohol use, recreational drug use and psychological stress or anxiety are some of the root causes of the condition, which, if left untreated can cause frequent fainting spells, heart failure and sudden cardiac arrest [8] .

By exercising and eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol under control can help prevent the condition from developing [9] .

Dangerous Heart Rates Indicate An Underlying Health Condition

According to studies and medical health experts, both tachycardia and bradycardia can be indicators of an underlying health condition [10] . If an individual faces either of it for a continuous period, immediate medical assistance is required as they can lead to blood clots, heart failure etc.

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Fast heart rates or tachycardia can be caused by underlying health conditions such as anaemia, congenital heart disease, hyperthyroidism etc. Slow heart rates or bradycardia can be caused due to underlying health condition such as hypothyroidism, damaged heart etc.

Diagnosis Of Dangerous Heart Rates

The doctor may use a variety of diagnostic tools to help diagnose your condition and they are as follows [11] :

  • Imaging tests
  • Laboratory tests
  • Imaging tests

Depending on the findings from the diagnostic tests, the doctor will most likely refer you to a cardiologist for further diagnosis and treatment.

Managing Dangerous Heart Rates

To maintain a healthy and normal heart rate, regular exercise, a heart-healthy diet, and a healthy weight are the primary factors to be considered. Some of the other ways through which one can manage the heart rates are as follows [12] :

  • Limit your caffeine intake
  • Control your alcohol consumption
  • Quit smoking
  • Manage your stress levels
View Article References
  1. [1] Krisai, P., Knecht, S., Sticherling, C., Osswald, S., & Kühne, M. (2019). Ablation of ventricular tachycardia using coils. European Heart Journal.
  2. [2] Zeng, R. (2020). Common Types of Tachycardia. In Handbook of Clinical Diagnostics (pp. 323-330). Springer, Singapore.
  3. [3] Gill, K., & Upadhyay, D. (2019). Ventricular Tachycardia Storm Secondary to Influenza Myocarditis. In B51. CRITICAL CARE CASE REPORTS: CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASES IN THE ICU II (pp. A3501-A3501). American Thoracic Society.
  4. [4] Malaza, G., Brofferio, A., Lin, F., & Pacak, K. (2019). Ivabradine Use in Refractory Catecholamine-Induced Tachycardia in Paraganglioma. The New England journal of medicine, 380(13), 1284.
  5. [5] Yomtov, B. M. (2019). U.S. Patent No. 10,245,362. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  6. [6] Bell, K., Elmograbi, A., Smith, A., & Kaur, J. (2019, April). Paradoxical bradycardia and hemorrhagic shock. In Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings (Vol. 32, No. 2, pp. 240-241). Taylor & Francis.
  7. [7] Doyen, B., Matelot, D., & Carré, F. (2019). Asymptomatic bradycardia amongst endurance athletes. The Physician and sportsmedicine, 47(3), 249-252.
  8. [8] Heckle, M. R., Nayyar, M., Sinclair, S. E., & Weber, K. T. (2018). Cannabinoids and symptomatic bradycardia. The American journal of the medical sciences, 355(1), 3-5.
  9. [9] Heckle, M. R., Nayyar, M., Sinclair, S. E., & Weber, K. T. (2019). Cannabinoids and symptomatic bradycardia. The American journal of the medical sciences, 355(1), 3-5.
  10. [10] Sidhu, S., & Marine, J. E. (2019). Evaluating and Managing Bradycardia. Trends in cardiovascular medicine.
  11. [11] Strassheim, V., Welford, J., Ballantine, R., & Newton, J. L. (2018). Managing fatigue in postural tachycardia syndrome (PoTS): The Newcastle approach. Autonomic Neuroscience, 215, 56-61.
  12. [12] Lei, L. Y., Chew, D. S., Sheldon, R. S., & Raj, S. R. (2019). Evaluating and managing postural tachycardia syndrome. Cleveland Clinic journal of medicine, 86(5), 333-344.

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