WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?
Tachycardia is not a disease, but a symptom. They talk about him when the heart begins to beat very quickly. “Very fast” in medicine means more than 100 beats per minute.
HOW IT WORKS?
We have a point that controls the heartbeat. It is located at the apex of the right atrium and is called the sinoatrial node, otherwise – the pacemaker of the first order. There are other “drivers” who maintain the rhythm, but sinus is the main one. It controls that the heart beats at a rate of 60 to 90 beats per minute. This is usually enough to supply blood to the entire body, from the brain to the toes.
WHY IS THE HEART SPEEDING UP?
Sometimes it is necessary for the blood to pump faster. For example, with physical or emotional stress. This is reported by adrenaline and the heart “presses on the gas” until the situation returns to normal. This happens after strong coffee, during fast movement or during a panic attack . This is physiological tachycardia and is not dangerous for a healthy muscle.
This tachycardia subside rather quickly, shortly after you calm down. But not all situations are so harmless. The sinoatrial node also accelerates during high fever or blood volume problems. For example, in anemia or heart failure, when there is less oxygen in the cells, the body compensates for the loss through the speed of blood flow. The heart works more often in an attempt to deliver life-giving oxygen to the tissues with each subsequent beat.
Another situation is when the parasympathetic nervous system “breaks down”. Normally, it should calm us down. When parasympathetic is active, we digest a delicious meal and sleep soundly. If at some neuronal level – in the brain or below – there is a failure, the heart does not receive a signal that it is time to be quieter. Then it accelerates tirelessly day and night.
It turns out that at least one of the conditions must work for the occurrence of tachycardia. Either a signal is needed that the body wants more blood and oxygen, or there is no signal that the environment is conducive to rest and the body requires less nutrients.
Of course, it’s not that simple. Sometimes the cause of tachycardia is a congenital condition that causes the heart to beat faster. This is the case with WPW syndrome , Wolff-Parkinson-White. Or when a side effect of medications such as caffeinated drugs or antidepressants triggers . It happens that the reason cannot be found out.
WHAT CAN CAUSE PROBLEMS?
The main job of the heart is to pump blood and transfer it through the body. If the heart moves too fast, it cannot fill with blood. This means that blood is not delivered to the body in the required volume. The problem of oxygen starvation arises, and our cells cannot live without oxygen.
Another danger is that rhythm disturbances increase the risk of strokes. When blood stagnates in one of the parts of the heart, clots form – blood clots. With the next acceleration, they can “float” upstream and end up in the brain. This is how a cardioembolic stroke occurs.
HOW DOES TACHYCARDIA MANIFEST?
The first symptoms may appear before age 40. The pulse quickens, may hurt in the chest. A person with tachycardia feels short of breath and dizzy. The moment of transition from one rhythm to another can be felt as interruptions or “dips” in the work of the heart. It happens that the accelerated pulse does not give symptoms .
HOW MUCH CAN THE HEART ACCELERATE?
Much faster than 350 beats per minute. This failure is called fibrillation and it increases the risk of stroke fivefold and threefold the likelihood of hospitalization for cardiovascular reasons. Simple pleasures like coffee and running do not threaten these special effects.
HOW IS THE DIAGNOSIS MADE?
If you go to the doctor with heart complaints, he will send you for an ECG and an ultrasound scan (Echo-KG). Failure of the rhythm is visible on the electrocardiogram. True, sometimes the usual film is not enough, then they put on a holter – an apparatus that monitors the rhythm for a day or more.
Sometimes a stress test may be prescribed . This is a cardiogram under stress: physical or medication. Most often, this is an ordinary treadmill, on which an ECG is taken while driving.
HOW IS IT TREATED?
Differently. Sometimes it is easy to find the cause and eliminate it: cure the underlying disease, bring down the temperature, reduce stress. You can get advice to quit smoking or reduce the amount of coffee. Chances are it will work. Complex cases may require more serious approaches, ranging from medication to radiofrequency ablation to a pacemaker.
A high heart rate does not always require treatment, but it can be very dangerous. Short-term heartbeats after coffee or exercise should not be alarming. But if the pulse is out of the norm too often and even at rest, go to the doctor. Perhaps your recipe is a sedative and more sleep. But it is worth sleeping peacefully, only excluding the dangerous causes of tachycardia.