When the elevated heart rate begins in the upper chambers of the heart, the condition is known as atrial or supraventricular tachycardia.
The condition results when the chambers of the upper heart fire abnormally, interfering with electrical signals and leading to early beats in the upper heart. When the heart beats rapidly, it does not allow enough time for the heart to fill before it contracts, compromising blood flow to the entire body.
There are several risk factors for atrial tachycardia, including:
- Being a child; it is the most common arrhythmia in children
- Being female; it is more common in women, but it can occur in either sex
- Physical fatigue
- Consuming large amounts of coffee
- Consuming large amounts of alcohol
- Heavy smokers
Atrial tachycardia doesn't always present symptoms. If it does, you may notice:
- Rapid heartbeat or palpitations
- Chest pain (angina)
- Shortness of breath
- Cardiac arrest
Not everyone needs treatment for atrial tachycardia, but treatment should be considered if episodes are prolonged or occur frequently. Some treatments your physician may suggest include:
- Lifestyle changes, such as cutting down on coffee, caffeine, alcohol and tobacco use
- Carotid sinus massage, which places gentle pressure on the neck (by a healthcare professional)
- Gentle pressure on the eyeball while eyes are closed
- Getting more rest
Ventricular tachycardia is a fast heart rate that begins in the lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles). It can be life-threatening and requires a quick diagnosis and treatment.
Symptoms of ventricular tachycardia include:
- Cardiac arrest
Ventricular tachycardia is usually caused by disorders that interfere with the heart's normal electrical activity:
- Lack of oxygen to heart
- Sarcoidosis (an inflammatory disease)
Treatment for ventricular tachycardia depends on the cause of the problem and may include:
Sinus tachycardia is when the sinoatrial (SA) node, the heart's natural pacemaker, sends out electrical signals faster than usual. The heart beats quickly, but properly.
Sinus tachycardia is often part of the body's response to common situations and conditions, such as:
- Some medicinal and street drugs
- Severe emotional distress
- Strenuous exercise
Sinus tachycardia can also be a sign of more serious conditions, including:
- Anemia (low blood count)
- Increased thyroid activity
- Heart muscle damage from heart attack or heart failure
Your physician will evaluate you in order to locate the cause of sinus tachycardia, since the underlying condition can be more serious than the tachycardia itself.