Racing Heartbeat? When to Get Emergency Care for a Dangerously Fast Heart Rate

01 Jan 2024

A racing heartbeat that persists or comes on suddenly, also called tachycardia, is an abnormally rapid heart rhythm signaling something is wrong. Tachycardia occurs when electrical signals misfire in the heart’s upper chambers, prompting them to contract very quickly in an uncontrolled manner, resulting in a dangerously fast heartbeat. Recognizing when this rapid heart rhythm becomes a medical emergency requiring prompt care could save your life.

What Exactly Triggers Tachycardia?

A racing heartbeat can have many underlying causes, including:

  • Electrical conduction disorders in the heart disrupting its normal rhythmic beating
  • Structural heart defects present since birth
  • Fever brought on by infections
  • Inflammation from recent illness or disease
  • Anemia or significantly low red blood cell counts
  • Overactive thyroid gland triggering hormonal surges
  • Stimulants found in foods, medications, or recreational drugs
  • High physiological stress or chronic anxiety
  • Recent traumatic injury causing internal bleeding. The most common cause is faulty electrical impulses rapidly stimulating the heart’s upper chambers to contract in a runaway cycle without pause. This internal cardiac wiring malfunction signals the heart muscle to suddenly start sprinting at an uncontrolled, life-threatening pace.

Pay Attention to Early Warning Signs

If you start to intermittently notice any of the following, it may signal tachycardia’s early onset:

  • Sudden racing heart palpitations
  • Mild chest pain, pressure, or discomfort
  • Occasional dizziness
  • Shortness of breath with exertion
  • Amplified anxiety or sense of unease. While these symptoms may not indicate an immediate crisis at first, their persistence warrants medical evaluation, especially if you have risk factors such as high cholesterol, hypertension, previous heart complications, or a family history of cardiac issues.

Don’t Ignore These Emergency Warning Signs

Racing heart symptoms intensifying into any of the below require emergency medical intervention:

  • Heart rate accelerating to over 200 beats per minute
  • Repeated scary heart palpitations
  • Periodic lightheadedness, mental fogginess, or fainting
  • Worsening chest pressure or pain
  • Severe shortness of breath, limiting daily function
  • Low blood pressure, causing recurrent dizziness. With symptoms this severe, call 911 or get to the nearest emergency room without delay, whether or not you have a prior heart condition. Immediate emergency room care becomes critical at this stage.

Emergency Treatment Options Available

Once checked into the emergency room near you, possible emergency treatments for life-threatening tachycardia may involve:

  • IV-administered medications to interrupt overactive electrical signals and dramatically slow your heart rate
  • Electrical cardioversion shocks that attempt to restore normal sinus heart rhythm
  • Identifying and targeting any hidden infection or blood loss triggering your symptoms
  • Prescribing oxygen supplementation if respiratory distress develops

Don’t Brush Off a Persistently Racing Heartbeat

If you continue experiencing severe, recurrent tachycardia symptoms, don’t downplay them. An uncontrolled dangerously rapid heartbeat can quickly spiral into fainting, stroke, heart failure, or full cardiac arrest if untreated. Carefully note and evaluate any signs like:

  • Lightheadedness or mental fogginess
  • Shortness of breath limiting activity
  • Chest pressure or pain
  • Forceful visible pounding in your chest
  • Heart palpitations continually disrupt normal function

Promptly seeking emergency medical care allows physicians to rapidly spot tachycardia triggers and pursue interventions to stabilize heart rhythm. Whether that involves medications, surgery, device implants, or lifestyle changes, there are solutions available once an underlying cause gets pinpointed. Don’t take chances with your health and delay potential life-saving treatment. If your heart starts sporadically racing out of control or beats too rapidly to count, rush to Memorial Village Emergency Room. Timely emergency intervention could save your life.

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