Rapid heart rate - tachycardia: causes, treatment and self-help

Rapid heart rate - tachycardia: causes, treatment and self-help

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Fast heartbeat - accelerated heart rate

Heart rate is one of the heart rhythm disorders and is referred to in medical jargon as tachycardia. This is too fast a heartbeat, with more than 100 beats per minute. Depending on the severity, accompanying symptoms such as dizziness, headache, sweating, shortness of breath, feelings of anxiety and even drowsiness and fainting can occur.

With increasing heart rate, oxygen-rich blood can no longer be pumped into the body, because the heart chambers no longer have enough time for their filling and relaxation. Heart contractions become weaker and the heart begins to beat uncontrollably.

Causes of racing heart

The different forms of the heart race are classified according to the place of origin, the mechanism of origin and the duration.

Supraventricular tachycardia

So-called supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) occurs in the area of ​​the atria (ventricle = chamber, supra = over). Common symptoms include heart stumbling or racing heart, chest pain, anxiety, drowsiness, shortness of breath, as well as dizziness and brief fainting spells. This form of cardiac arrhythmia can also be symptom-free. Supraventricular tachycardia is very rarely life-threatening.

Sinus node tachycardia

Here the sinus node is the site of arousal, which is also the case with healthy people. However, with sinus node tachycardia, the frequency is 100 to 160 heartbeats per minute. The heartbeat is usually regular. The causes of the racing heart are mental or physical stress, hyperthyroidism (hyperthyroidism) and fever.

Likewise, a stay at high altitude, poisoning, anemia, large blood loss or a heart attack can be the cause of sinus tachycardia. Taking certain medications, such as medicines for bronchial asthma, can also lead to the above-mentioned irregular heartbeat.

Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia

In the case of paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (paroxysmal = seizure-like), the person affected suddenly experiences attacks of rapid heartbeat with a frequency of 160 to 200 beats per minute, in connection with dizziness and possible brief syncope (loss of consciousness). Mostly there is an organic heart disease.

Atrial flutter

Atrial flutter is understood to mean 250 to 350 atrial contractions per minute. Of these uncontrolled, furiously fast atrial contractions, usually only every second or even third contraction is transmitted to the heart chambers. The frequency of the chamber is between 125 and 150 beats per minute.

It is also possible that all atrial contractions are transferred to the heart chambers, which means an acute danger to life for the patient concerned. So-called ventricular flutter or ventricular fibrillation can develop from this. The cause of atrial flutter is usually a previously damaged heart.

Atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is the increase in atrial flutter and has a frequency of 350 to 600 contractions per minute. These contractions are absolutely uncontrolled and therefore exert equally uncontrolled excitement on the chambers. Here, too, the cause is a previously damaged heart, such as for example with a mitral valve stenosis (heart valve defect with a narrowed opening of the mitral valve).

In the worst case, the uncontrolled beating of the heart can lead to thrombus formation, which can lead to an embolism. To prevent this, affected people should be treated by a cardiologist in good time.

Ventricular tachycardia

In ventricular tachycardia, the center of excitation is in the ventricles. A frequency of one hundred beats per minute is usually massively exceeded. This type of arrhythmia is a life-threatening situation.

Ventricular flutter and ventricular fibrillation

Both types belong to ventricular tachycardias, which can lead to sudden cardiac death. The heart rate in ventricular flutter is between 250 and 350 beats per minute, the rate in ventricular fibrillation exceeds 350 beats per minute.

Ventricular flutter and ventricular fibrillation result in cardiac arrest. It has to be reanimated. The defibrillator is used and the patient is then monitored intensively. The chances of survival for ventricular flutter and ventricular fibrillation are low.

Treatment options for racing heart

Therapy for rapid heartbeat depends on the degree of expression, the location of the tachycardia and the age of the patient. The pumping power of the heart is also crucial, i.e. the extent to which the body is adequately supplied with oxygenated blood.

In the past, antiarrhythmics were mainly used. However, these can trigger tachycardia themselves. Defibrillation is performed in acute tachycardia with loss of consciousness. Electrodes are placed on the patient's chest, through which current surges are emitted to bring the heart back to a healthy rhythm. After that, intensive medical surveillance is usually necessary.

Various treatment methods are used for non-acute, life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias. Medicines are usually used initially to stabilize the heart rhythm in order to ensure an adequate oxygen supply for the body.

With the help of a so-called cardiac catheter examination, the doctor can get an accurate picture of the performance of the heart. The catheter examination is also used therapeutically, with certain areas being switched off by electricity (ablation), which trigger the tachycardia. This procedure is called catheter ablation.

A mini-defibrillator is often used in patients with tachycardia originating from the ventricle. The latter notices the heart's malfunction and, in the event of a greater deviation, can give an impulse to normalize the heart rhythm again. One form of therapy is not always sufficient. These are often linked together.

Self help with racing heart

If the heart suddenly beats unusually fast, you should lie down immediately. Breathe calmly and slowly to calm down. It is advisable to then carry out a gentle neck massage while lying down, because this way certain pressure receptors are stimulated, which can lead to a normalization of the heartbeat. Find a place on your neck where you can feel your pulse and massage it carefully with your middle and forefinger.

Often, quickly drinking a cold and carbonated drink (mineral water) helps to relieve the discomfort and get the heart back on track.

It is generally important that patients suffering from a racing heart keep their coffee consumption low and avoid nicotine and alcohol. Drugs like cocaine and the active ingredient THC contained in hashish are also often responsible for a rapid pulse. Therefore, those affected should immediately stop consuming it.

If the accelerated heartbeat occurs in connection with negative stress, the symptoms usually go away quickly as soon as the stress level has normalized again. If you are constantly under a lot of tension, you should definitely consider the reasons for this and think about solutions to change the stressful situation.

If, for example, strong fears or panic attacks are the reason for a constant racing heart, individually tailored psychotherapy can help to get this under control.

If the complaints can be traced back to occupational stress, tight deadlines or excessive demands, the arrhythmia should be regarded as an important alarm signal and must be taken seriously. Check where exactly the problem is and look for ways to change the existing structures.

Calm the heart with relaxation exercises

In general, relaxation methods are often very helpful in the case of stress-related rapid heartbeat, in order to be able to deal with the stresses better and to regain more inner balance. There are many tried and tested methods for reducing stress, such as autogenic training, progressive muscle relaxation or yoga.

Anyone who has mastered an active relaxation technique can often use it quickly and easily as a first aid measure in acute stressful situations. Because once the exercises are learned correctly, they usually do not need any instructions anymore, but can be carried out well alone.

Regular exercise in the fresh air is a proven way to reduce stress and support the cardiovascular system. Endurance training is recommended to strengthen the heart and to ensure a healthy beat rhythm. However, this should never be done without first consulting your doctor.

Important: A racing heart is a disease that basically requires medical clarification. Self-medication is strongly discouraged.

Home remedies for racing heart

If stress and anxiety are the cause of the racing heart, plants such as valerian, hops and passion flower have calming properties and can therefore have a positive effect on the heart's beating behavior.

An infusion with lemon balm, caraway seeds and valerian helps to relieve nervous heart problems in acute stressful situations.

Recipe for heart tea with valerian
  1. Mix 30 grams of lemon balm leaves, caraway fruit and valerian root
  2. Put 2 tsp of the mixture in a cup
  3. Pour 250 ml of boiling water over the herbs
  4. Leave for five to ten minutes
  5. Now you can strain the tea and drink it in small sips

If the heart is "out of rhythm" and needs some rest to beat evenly again, a tea with herbs such as dwarf elderberry and garden rhombus can be a good support for stress and tension.

Soothing heart tea
  • 40 g of elderberry
  • 25 g Bibernelle
  • 25 g bloodroot
  • 25 g garden rhombus
  • 25 g angelica root

The herbs are mixed well together. Bring water to the boil as needed (250 ml on 2 teaspoons of herbal mixture). Pour boiling water over the herbs and let the infusion steep for 10 minutes before straining. Drink a cup of the tea daily.

Naturopathy for a fast heartbeat

With tachycardia, naturopathic therapies are increasingly being used alongside conventional medicine. For mild forms of rapid heartbeat, homeopathic remedies such as aconite, strophantus and crataegus are used in naturopathy.

In addition, rejection procedures such as cupping and Baunscheidt therapy are available. These are used in conjunction with basic food and herbal products that are supposed to stimulate the detoxification performance of the body in order to stabilize the heart rhythm. (sw, nr)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Thomas Paul et al .: Guideline Pediatric Cardiology: Tachycardia Cardiac Arrhythmias in Childhood, Adolescence and Young Adulthood (EMAH Patients), German Society for Pediatric Cardiology, (accessed 03.09.2019), AWMF
  • Thomas Lambert, Clemens Steinwender: Cardiovascular Medicine, Trauner Verlag, 1st edition, 2019
  • Dhein S., Hindricks G. (2004) Arrhythmias. In: Pharmacotherapy. Springer textbook. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg
  • L. Brent Mitchell: Sinus Dysfunction, MSD Manual, (accessed September 3, 2019), MSD
  • L. Brent Mitchell: Atrial Fibrillation and Atrial Flutter, MSD Manual, (accessed September 3, 2019), MSD

ICD codes for this disease: R00.0ICD codes are internationally valid encryption codes for medical diagnoses. You can find e.g. in doctor's letters or on disability certificates.

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