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About Tachycardia (Fast Heartbeat)

If you have tachycardia, your heart may beat up to 400 times per minute. This can cause dizziness, lightheadedness, or a fluttering in the chest. An implantable cardioverter defibrillator continuously monitors your heart and delivers life-saving therapies to treat dangerously fast heart rhythms.

Definition

Tachycardia is a fast or irregular heart rhythm, usually more than 100 beats per minute and as many as 400 beats per minute. At these elevated rates, the heart is not able to efficiently pump oxygen-rich blood to your body.

Tachycardia can occur in either the upper heart chambers (atrial tachycardia) or lower heart chambers (ventricular tachycardia).

Causes

Causes of tachycardia include:

  • Heart-related conditions such as high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Poor blood supply to the heart muscle due to coronary artery disease (atherosclerosis), heart valve disease, heart failure, heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy), tumors, or infections
  • Other medical conditions such as thyroid disease, certain lung diseases, electrolyte imbalance, and alcohol or drug abuse
  • Emotional stress or drinking large amounts of alcoholic or caffeinated beverages

Symptoms

Symptoms of tachycardia include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Sudden weakness
  • Fluttering in the chest
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fainting

Risk Factors

Certain conditions can increase your risk of developing tachycardia:

  • Coronary artery disease (atherosclerosis)
  • Heart failure (poor pumping heart)
  • Heart attack (myocardial infarction)
  • Congenital heart defects (condition you are born with)
  • Inflammatory or degenerative heart conditions
  • Chronic lung disease

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.

Last updated: 22 Sep 2010

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