6 Reasons Your Heart Rate is High   

6 Reasons Your Heart Rate is High

6 Reasons Your Heart Rate is High
Clinical Contributors to this story:
Ali Moosvi, M.D.

You’ve probably noticed that you have a faster heart rate when you exercise and a slower heart rate when you’re relaxed. But do you ever feel like you have an increased heart rate for no reason?

Having an increased heart rate isn’t necessarily a concerning health condition. Rather, it’s a symptom caused by any number of circumstances, such as a reaction to something that’s happening in your life, or it may be caused by a health condition.

“When you feel your heart pounding in your chest unexpectedly, don’t jump to conclusions that there’s something wrong with your heart, but if the problem continues without an explainable and simple cause, see a doctor to discuss your concerns,” says interventional cardiologist, Ali Moosvi, M.D.

What is a high heart rate?

Generally, your resting heart rate should be around 60 to 100 beats per minute. A resting heartbeat that’s higher than 100 beats per minute, also known as a rapid heart rate, or tachycardia, should be checked by a doctor. Learn how to check your heart rate.

Why is my heart rate high? Here are six common causes of a high heart rate:

  1. Stress. When your body responds to something stressful, frightening or upsetting, you may get a jolt of adrenaline, which can increase your pulse rate.
  2. Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism). Having too much thyroid hormone in your system makes your heart beat faster than it should, resulting in a rapid heartbeat.
  3. Anemia. If you have anemia, you don’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen around your body to your organs. Your heart may beat more rapidly to compensate for this, in an attempt to help whatever oxygen-rich blood you have to reach your organs more quickly.
  4. Medication side effects. Some drugs may increase your heart rate, including some that treat asthma, anxiety, colds, depression and high blood pressure.
  5. Addictive substances. Caffeine, cigarettes and high levels of alcohol may cause an increased heart rate after you use those substances. Additionally, illegal drugs like cocaine may also have this effect on your heart rate.
  6. Strenuous physical activity. When you exert more than your body is prepared for, it will result in a faster heartbeat to meet the higher demand.

When an elevated heart rate is caused by lifestyle factors, managing stress or limiting caffeine and other vices may help you stop feeling that your heart is beating too quickly. 

If you’ve noticed a change in heart rate shortly after you’ve begun taking a new medication, ask your doctor if the drug could be responsible for the change and if an alternative medication or a dosage change is available. 

When your higher-than-normal heart rate is caused by a condition like anemia or hyperthyroidism, seeing your doctor and managing those conditions should help your heart rate return to normal.

Heart conditions can also cause a fast heart rate

Some people who are born with congenital heart conditions may experience a fast heartbeat. Other people who develop heart disease over time may notice that their heart rate feels high. When something gets in the way of the heart working properly, it may have to beat more quickly to pump blood more efficiently.

Heart conditions which may cause a rapid heartbeat include:

If you have been diagnosed with a heart condition and you’ve noticed a faster heart rate  than usual, make an appointment to talk to your doctor about the change.

How to lower your heart rate

When to seek emergency care for a rapid heart rate

Call 911 or get immediate medical help if your heart rate seems too high and you have these symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Weakness
  • Feeling faint, or fainting
  • Chest pain or discomfort

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.



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