by Dr. Fernando Boccalandro
As seen in the Odessa American Medical Matters:
Frequently patients complain of a rapid heartbeat. The medical term for a rapid heartbeat is tachycardia, which is a heart rate above 100 beats per minute.
The term tachycardia comes from the Greek words Takhus meaning swift, and Kardia meaning heart. When the heart beats too fast, it may not pump blood adequately and can result in a rapid pulse, shortness of breath, a feeling of racing heart (or palpitations), fainting, chest pain or lightheadedness.
We have a complex and reliable electrical system that activates the heart in a synchronous way, approximately 100,000 a day since our birth. However, occasionally this electrical system can start to have problems resulting in episodes of tachycardia. A tachycardia can be related to a primary abnormality in the electrical system within the heart, but also can be secondary to other medical problems that accelerate the normal heartbeat making the heart pump faster. Exercise, stress, anemia, fever, alcohol, caffeine, medications, tobacco, recreational drugs and thyroid problems are some of the causes that can result in tachycardia.
Conditions that can damage the underlying structure of the heart like a heart attack, hypertension or congenital abnormalities can increase the risk of developing a tachycardia. The majority of the patients with a tachycardia have a favorable outcome. Nonetheless, some tachycardias can be serious, including the risk to form blood clots within the heart, causing a stroke or a heart attack, weakening the heart muscle resulting in heart failure, causing loss of consciousness and rarely resulting in sudden death. Because of this, it is important to evaluate patients with tachycardia with the goal to identify the cause and to recommend appropriate therapy when indicated.
If you feel that you heart races, please discuss your concerns with your physician to assure that your heart is not beating out of rhythm. Tachycardia can be serious if not treated. Don’t let that rapid beat go on!