Tachycardia is the medical term for a heart rate over 100 beats per minute. It is classed as a type of ‘arrhythmia‘ due to the effects on an individuals heart rate.

Sometimes it is normal to experience a higher heart rate. For example during bouts of exercise or when experiencing extreme periods of stress or emotion. But in tachycardia, the heart beats faster than normal due to conditions unrelated to external factors such as exercise, stress or other emotions.

In some cases, tachycardia may cause no symptoms or complications. However if left untreated, tachycardia can disrupt normal heart function and lead to serious complications, including:

  • Heart failure.
  • Stroke.
  • Sudden cardiac arrest or death.

Types of tachycardia

There are many different types of tachycardia depending on the area of the heart causing the fast heartbeat.

Common types of tachycardia include:

  • Atrial Fibrillation.
  • Atrial Flutter.
  • Supra-ventricular Tachycardia (SVT).
  • Ventricular Tachycardia.
  • Ventricular Fibrillation.

Signs & symptoms of tachycardia

Some common signs and symptoms to look out for include:

  • Shortness of breath and lightheadedness.
  • Chest pain.
  • A rapid, irregular pulse felt on the wrist or side of the neck.
  • Uncomfortable and rapid heart palpitations felt in the chest.

How can tachycardia be diagnosed?

An electrocardiogram, also called an ECG, is the most common tool used to diagnose tachycardia. It’s an easy test that detects and records the heart’s electrical activity using small electrodes attached to your chest and body.

An ECG records the timing and strength of electrical signals as they travel through your heart. Your doctor can look for certain patterns to determine what kind of tachycardia and where the problem is coming from.

Other ways to detect and diagnose tachycardia include a Holter Monitor, Cardiac imaging or a Stress Test.

Is exercise important?

Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, and it should not be avoided, even if you have a heart condition.

For the vast majority of people with arrhythmias – including atrial fibrillation and tachycardia, exercise is not only acceptable, it’s encouraged.

Not only can exercise help to strengthen the cardiovascular system, it can also help to prevent the risk factors for developing tachycardia. In other words, exercise has a protective function against this kind of heart condition.

Before starting exercise, it is recommended that you speak with your Cardiologist first, who may recommend a Stress Test. A Stress Test is a monitored exercise test which looks at the hearts response to exercise. This test can determine if the heart responds poorly to different intensities of exercise over time.

Once you have been cleared by your Cardiologist to commence exercise, it is important to start slowly and conservatively and build over time. If you feel symptoms such as dizziness, palpitations or chest pain it is important to seek medical assistance immediately.

Over time, you will understand how your body responds to certain exercise modalities and intensities, and you can adjust your exercise accordingly. Once you understand how your body responds to exercise, you can create a program specific to your health and symptoms!

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