Tachycardia refers to a fast resting heart rate, usually over 100 beats per minute (bpm) in adults. Some people experience no symptoms, but others may notice palpitations and lightheadedness, among other changes.

Depending on its underlying cause and how hard the heart has to work, tachycardia can lead to severe complications.

There are different types of tachycardia based on which part of the heart the issue comes from, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

Some people with tachycardia have no symptoms, and complications never develop. However, tachycardia can increase the risk of heart failure, sudden cardiac arrest, and death.

In this article, learn more about the symptoms, causes, and treatment options associated with tachycardia.

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Tachycardia refers to a high resting heart rate. In adults, the heart usually beats between 60 and 100 times per minute.

A heart rate over 100 bpm is considered tachycardia. Sometimes, a heart rate greater than 100 bpm is to be expected, such as after exercise. However, experts consider a resting heart rate over 100 bmp, or an exaggerated heart rate response to exercise, abnormal.

When tachycardia is present, either the upper or lower chamber — or both — beats significantly faster.

When the heart beats too rapidly, it pumps less efficiently. Blood flow to the rest of the body, including the heart, decreases. The pressure in the lungs can also rise, leading to fluid accumulation.

The heart is a muscle. When the heart muscle beats too fast, it can weaken or “tire out” over time. This is called tachycardia-induced cardiomyopathy.

Learn about how the heart works.

The following table outlines some common types of tachycardia.

TypeWhat is it?
sinus tachycardiaThe heart rate is faster, but the rhythm is regular.
Causes include:
• stress
• fever
• certain drugs
• infection
• thyroid or blood count issues
inappropriate sinus tachycardiaHealth experts do not understand the exact cause, but neurological factors appear to play a role.
It may be more likely to affect:
• elite athletes
• people experiencing psychological stress
• females
• people who have recently had COVID-19
• people with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS)
atrial or supraventricular tachycardiaThis is an accelerated heart rhythm that starts in the upper chambers of the heart.
It often begins in children and adults between the ages of 25 and 40 years.
Episodes can last for a few minutes or up to several hours.
atrial fibrillation (AFib)Electrical activity in the atria overrides the heart’s natural pacemaker, causing the chambers to contract rapidly and irregularly.
It generally co-occurs with another heart condition.
It is more likely to affect people over the age of 65 years.
It can increase the risk of stroke.
atrial flutterIt is similar to AFib.
The heart rhythms are more organized.
Many people have both AFib and atrial flutter.
ventricular tachycardiaAbnormal electrical signals in the lower chambers result in a rapid heart rate.
It may result from a previous heart attack, drug use, genetic conditions leading to long QT syndrome, or other cardiovascular issues.
The severity of the underlying cause determines the severity of ventricular tachycardia.
Long episodes require immediate medical care.
ventricular fibrillation (VFib)This is a serious cardiac disturbance.
The ventricles quiver instead of beating.
It causes poor blood supply to the body.
Experts consider this a medical emergency.

Tachycardia usually stems from a disruption in the normal electrical impulses that control the heart’s pumping action or the rate at which the heart pumps.

Depending on the type and cause of tachycardia, the following factors may trigger it:

However, sometimes the exact cause may not be clear.

Depending on the type and what is causing tachycardia, the following symptoms may occur:

However, many people have no symptoms and only find out that they have tachycardia during a routine examination.

If a person seeks medical advice for a suspected heart rhythm problem, the doctor will typically:

  • ask about their symptoms
  • carry out a physical exam
  • order tests

These tests may include:

  • electrocardiogram to measure electrical impulses the heart produces
  • echocardiogram to produce a moving image of the heart
  • wearable devices, such as a Holter monitor or event recorder, to monitor heart rhythms or electrical impulses
  • blood tests to help determine whether thyroid or other problems are contributing to tachycardia
  • graded exercise test to help identify how physical activity affects heart rhythms
  • implantable loop recorder to record the heart’s activity continuously
  • electrophysiology studies are invasive tests that help doctors understand why an arrhythmia occurs and where it originates from

Tachycardia treatment depends on various factors, including:

  • the cause
  • the age of the individual
  • their overall health
  • heart function and structure

Treatment aims to address the cause, but a doctor may also try to:

  • slow the heart rate
  • prevent further episodes
  • reduce the risk of complications

If there is no clear underlying cause, it may take some time to find a suitable treatment option.

Learn how to lower your resting heart rate.

Some measures can help prevent and manage tachycardia.

Lifestyle factors

Some ways to prevent tachycardia and other heart issues at home include:

  • avoiding the use of tobacco and illegal drugs
  • limiting the consumption of certain substances, such as:
    • alcohol and caffeine
    • energy drinks
    • cardiac stimulants, such as cocaine and methamphetamine
  • reducing stress, when possible
  • getting enough sleep
  • following a balanced diet
  • getting regular exercise


Medications that can help people manage tachycardia include:

Blood thinners can help manage the complications of atrial fibrillation.

Other ways of helping to prevent tachycardia may include:

  • Radiofrequency catheter ablation: This involves inserting catheters into the heart through the blood vessels. Electrodes at the end of the catheter can ablate, or damage, small sections of the heart that are responsible for the abnormal heartbeat.
  • Surgery: A healthcare professional may recommend surgery to make repairs or changes that can help reduce the risk of tachycardia. A pacemaker or defibrillator can also help manage some types.

Typically, invasive therapies and surgeries are reserved for cases where other therapies have not worked or the person has another heart condition.

The following factors can increase the risk of tachycardia:

  • age, as some kinds affect different age groups
  • genetic factors
  • personal or family history of heart disease
  • anxiety
  • high consumption of caffeine and alcohol
  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • mental stress
  • smoking
  • the use of illegal drugs
  • thyroid disease

The risk of complications depends on several factors, including:

  • the severity and duration of the tachycardia
  • the type
  • the overall health of the person
  • any other heart conditions they may have
  • the structure and function of the heart muscle

The most common complications include:

  • Blood clots: Blood clots can significantly increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.
  • Heart failure: Without treatment, the heart can become weaker, increasing the risk of heart failure.
  • Fainting: A person with a rapid heartbeat may lose consciousness, increasing their risk of a fall or other accident.

In some cases, tachycardia may lead to sudden death. This usually only occurs with ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation.

A person may also experience:

  • palpitations
  • fainting and dizziness
  • tiredness and fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain and tightness, or angina
  • low blood pressure and shock
  • heart failure

The following are some questions people frequently ask about tachycardia.

What can trigger tachycardia?

Tachycardia can occur for many reasons, including:

  • the use of some drugs, prescription medications, or substances, such as caffeine
  • health issues, such as cardiovascular disease, anemia, and some lung problems
  • stress and anxiety
  • heart problems that a person is born with
  • electrolyte problems or dehydration

What heart rate is tachycardia?

In an adult, a doctor will diagnose tachycardia if a person’s resting heart rate is over 100 bpm. Most people have a resting heart rate of 60–100 bpm, but this can vary according to age and other individual factors.

What is the first-line treatment for tachycardia?

There are many options. However, the treatment depends on the type of tachycardia, the cause, and any underlying conditions. In atrial fibrillation — a common cause of tachycardia — doctors commonly prescribe beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers to control heart rates. Sometimes, they may also suggest antiarrhythmic drugs.

They may also recommend radiofrequency or catheter ablation, surgery, a pacemaker, and lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking if a person smokes.

Tachycardia refers to rapid heart rhythms, usually over 100 bpm in an adult. Some causes include heart disease.

Some tachycardia, such as sinus tachycardia, are a “normal” response and not an arrhythmia. In this case, the doctor will treat the underlying condition rather than the tachycardia. However, if tachycardia is an arrhythmia or abnormal heart rhythm, a doctor will treat the tachycardia itself with medication, ablation, or surgery.

It is possible to have tachycardia, such as atrial fibrillation, without symptoms. But it can lead to complications, such as a heart attack or stroke.

Anyone who has concerns about their heart health should seek medical advice, as early treatment can help prevent long-term and possibly life threatening complications.

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