Is a Fast Heart Rate Dangerous?

TachycardiaTachycardia is a general term used to describe a rapid heartbeat. In some instances, tachycardia is the body’s normal reaction to situations that cause increased levels of adrenaline and generally poses little or no health risk. However, other types of tachycardia can be more serious.

When the heart beats significantly faster than normal, it can be less effective in providing oxygen-rich blood to tissues throughout the body. Though tachycardia sometimes goes unnoticed, it many cases the reduction in oxygen supply is associated with a range of symptoms, including shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, lightheadedness and chest pain. Some types of tachycardia can even lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Tachycardia can sometimes be reversed with lifestyle changes such as reducing alcohol or caffeine consumption, controlling stress or making adjustments to your medication regimen. In other cases, tachycardia can be controlled by treating an underlying medical condition, such as anemia, heart disease or hyperthyroidism.

However, some types of tachycardia occur due to an extra electrical circuit in the heart or structural damage to the heart muscle (e.g., from illness or a heart attack) that causes the heart’s electrical system to malfunction. In these cases, direct treatment may be necessary. This might take the form of medication therapy, pacemaker implantation or cardiac ablation, in which radiofrequency energy is used to destroy very tiny areas of tissue that give rise to abnormal electrical signals.

Emory’s Arrhythmia Center is one of the most comprehensive and innovative clinics for heart rhythm disorders in the country. In addition to offering state-of-the-art care for the full range of heart rhythm disorders, the Center also offers heart rhythm screening clinics at a number of locations throughout the Atlanta area. If you have experienced an irregular heartbeat, palpitations, a racing heartbeat or other troubling heart irregularities, we recommend that you schedule an appointment with one of our specialty-trained nurse practitioners, who will begin a comprehensive screening evaluation to determine whether you need follow-up care with an electrophysiologist.

About Dr. El-Chami

Mikhael El Chami, MDMikhael El-Chami, MD , completed his residency at Emory in 2003 and was nominated for a chief-residency year at Emory in 2004. His training in cardiology and electrophysiology also was completed at Emory. His areas of clinical interest include cardiac arrhythmia ablation, cardiac resynchronization therapy and prevention of sudden cardiac death. Dr. El-Chami holds organizational leadership positions with the American College of Cardiology and the Heart Rhythm Society. He speaks fluent Arabic and French.

About Emory’s Arrhythmia Center

Emory’s Arrhythmia Center is one of the most comprehensive and innovative clinics for heart rhythm disorders in the country. Our electrophysiologists have been pioneers in shaping treatment options for patients with arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation, as well as for those with congestive heart disease. Our specialized electrophysiology (EP) labs host state-of-the-art equipment, including computerized three-dimensional mapping systems to assist with the ablation of complex arrhythmias, and an excimer laser system to perform pacemaker and defibrillator lead extractions.

Patients with devices, whether implanted at Emory or elsewhere, have access to Emory’s comprehensive follow-up care. Patients benefit from remote monitoring, quarterly atrial fibrillation support groups and 24-hour implantable cardiac device (ICD) and pacemaker monitoring services. Inpatient telemetry and coronary care units, as well as outpatient care and educational support of patients with pacemakers and ICDs, complete Emory’s comprehensive range of arrhythmia treatments and services.

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