Tachycardia describes when the heart beats faster than normal. Sinus rhythm with tachycardia occurs when the sinus node fires electrical impulses abnormally quickly.

People can have either normal or inappropriate sinus tachycardia. Normal sinus tachycardia refers to a physiological increased heart rate that occurs in response to specific factors, such as stress, exercise, pain, or a fever.

Inappropriate sinus tachycardia has no known cause. People who experience it may have an increased heart rate all of the time, even at rest.

This article discusses sinus tachycardia, including its symptoms, types, causes, and treatment options.

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Sinus tachycardia refers to an increased heart rate that exceeds 100 beats per minute (bpm). The sinus node, or sinoatrial node, is a bundle of specialized electrical cells in the right upper chamber of the heart.

These cells act as the natural pacemaker of the heart by sending electrical impulses to the surrounding tissue. These impulses cause the heart to contract.

A properly functioning sinus node regulates the rhythm and speed of a person’s heart. According to the American Heart Association, a typical heart rate should fall within 60–100 bpm at rest. However, it is often lower in well-trained athletes.

People can develop sinus tachycardia for different reasons. The underlying cause will determine the likely outcome of a person with this condition.

Types of sinus tachycardia include normal and inappropriate sinus tachycardia.

Normal sinus tachycardia

Normal sinus tachycardia involves a known cause for the increase in heartbeat rate.

Causes of normal sinus tachycardia can include:

The causes of normal sinus tachycardia might be part of a person’s everyday life, although a person experiencing anxiety symptoms may wish to contact a doctor.

Learn about treatment for anxiety here.

Inappropriate sinus tachycardia

Inappropriate sinus tachycardia (IST) occurs due to unknown reasons. IST can cause a faster heart rate for a person even when they are at rest.

According to the authors of a 2017 case report, doctors can sometimes misdiagnose IST as a symptom of mental health conditions, such as depression.

The main differences between IST and normal sinus tachycardia are that IST typically does not have a known cause, and IST occurs when at rest or when the heart responds disproportionately to movement.

Sinus tachycardia occurs when the heart rate is above 100 bpm.

In addition to a fast heart rate, people with sinus tachycardia may experience the following symptoms:

Learn why a heart rate might jump up and down here.

Most of the time, sinus tachycardia is a normal response of the cardiovascular system to triggers that increase the heart rate. Normal sinus tachycardia may occur as part of the body’s response to certain circumstances, such as intense physical activity or emotional distress.

During exercise, the heart rate typically increases as it needs to pump more oxygen to the muscles.

Emotional stress or anxiety can trigger an increase in neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and epinephrine, which make the heart beat faster.

Other potential causes of normal sinus tachycardia include:

Less common causes of sinus tachycardia include:

IST typically occurs without a known cause.

A doctor can diagnose sinus tachycardia by reviewing a person’s medical history, performing a physical examination, and carrying out other medical tests.

Other tests that a doctor can use to diagnose sinus tachycardia include:

If a doctor needs more information about how a person’s heart functions, they may ask the individual to use a wearable medical device called a Holter monitor for at least 24 hours.

The basic diagnostic criteria for IST include having a resting heart rate higher than 100 bpm and an average resting heart rate above 90 bpm during Holter monitoring for 24 hours. A person may also have an increased heart rate and heart palpitations as a result of emotional distress.

Treatments for sinus tachycardia vary depending on the underlying cause but usually involve a combination of lifestyle changes, medication, and, in very rare instances, surgery.

Doctors address the underlying cause or condition when treating normal sinus tachycardia and do not often treat the tachycardia itself. Treating IST can be more challenging due to symptoms persisting past managing the heart rate with medications and lifestyle changes.

Treatments for sinus tachycardia may include:

  • reducing caffeine intake
  • quitting smoking and avoiding other sources of nicotine
  • exercising regularly
  • drinking enough water
  • consuming less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day

Sinus tachycardia is usually a benign condition, but it can weaken the heart over time if it is persistent. Doctors refer to this as tachycardia-induced cardiomyopathy.


Sometimes, a doctor may prescribe medications, such as beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, or ivabradine to reduce the heart rate and treat symptoms.

For example, research from 2018 indicates that ivabradine, a type of selective If channel inhibiting drug, can help independently reduce heart rate in people living with heart failure.

Catheter ablation

A doctor may recommend more invasive forms of treatment, such as catheter ablation, for people with inappropriate sinus tachycardia that does not respond to lifestyle changes or medication.

Catheter ablation delivers heat to the portions of heart tissue that cause rapid or irregular heartbeats. This procedure can help return the heart rate to normal. However, every procedure has complications, and people may still experience recurring tachycardia after catheter ablation.

People can discuss the risks and benefits of catheter ablation with a doctor.

Learn about cardiac ablation therapy here.

Tachycardia occurs when the heart beats more than 100 times per minute, whether at rest or with exercise. People develop sinus tachycardia when the sinus node in the heart sends electrical impulses more quickly than normal.

It can occur as a result of a particular trigger, such as exercise, caffeine, or stress. However, sinus tachycardia without a physiologic trigger can result from an arrhythmia called inappropriate sinus tachycardia.

Treatments for sinus tachycardia focus on lowering the heart rate to normal by treating the underlying cause, such as infection or low blood pressure. Doctors may also recommend lifestyle changes, medications, and medical procedures, such as catheter ablation.

People with sinus tachycardia can learn more about their treatment options by speaking with a doctor. A doctor can offer advice on ways to improve overall cardiovascular health to lower the resting heart rate.