Why A Fast Heart Beat Isn’t Dangerous

chest painFor many people a fast heart beat is a waking nightmare. A constant reminder that something isn’t right.

I think of a fast heart beat (tachycardia) in less intense terms. I consider it a sign of stress and not death. Tachycardia (100 heart beats per minute or more) simply isn’t the killer you think it is.

This is an important topic to address because it’s a symptom that has likely affected you.

You see, when you get tachycardic, you imagine all sorts of horrific scenarios, many of which probably involve a sickness of some kind.

It’s one of the reasons why tachycardia scares so well, it makes you feel like your life could end at any moment. But tachycardia doesn’t always mean danger or damage.

How It Works

When you feel anxious you might assume that anxiety is the source of your symptoms. But, in fact, the culprit is stress.

Stress is designed for short bursts of energy, attention, and focus to help you avert injury or death. The trouble is that when your stress response is set off it can sometimes remain activated for long periods of time.

One reason for this could be that you’re sensitive to stress, which fires off strong emotional reactions that make it hard for you to recover from bouts of anxiety.

The result of being stress sensitive is that your body’s production of stress hormone (i.e., adrenaline and cortisol) can be elevated and have a major impact on your body.

Stress can increase the demand for blood  (cardiac output), which makes the heart work harder, pump faster, and increase your heart rate as a result.

What does this look like in everyday life? Well, say that you’re sitting at your desk and get a quick twinge of chest pain and notice your pulse racing. It may not even be a lot, but just enough to make you worry about what it could mean. This is when you start questioning the health of your heart.

Your stress turns into worry, which causes anxiety. Now, your limbic system (emotional brain) kicks in and excites the nerves of your heart, so your heart speeds up even more. That’s “emotion based” tachycardia.

A strong emotional reaction can indeed cause tachycardia. It’s normal, and absent disease, isn’t dangerous.

Chances are that if you’ve had tachycardia you’ve sought medical attention for it. Maybe you did an EKG, blood tests, stress test, holter monitor, etc. Still, you stay scared. But you don’t have to be.

A Different View of Tachycardia

Think of it this way. Anxiety is an indicator of stress. Tachycardia is part of that stress signal. Where do you think all your worry, fear, and stress goes? It certainly doesn’t evaporate into the ether. Instead, those negative emotions are manifested in your body.

But that in no way means that your rapid heart beat is set to kill you. It just means that you’re affected by your emotional experiences. Stress and anxiety are charged, live wire, reactions to months or even years of internal strife. Your heart is reacting to that discord.

The other piece is that your past experience already tells you that a fast heart beat isn’t the killer you think it is. How many times have you experienced a rapid heart rate? And of those times how many ended in injury or death? None right?

So really what you’re dealing with is the anticipation of something awful happening and not with what is likely to happen.

That doesn’t mean that your fearful assumptions aren’t powerful. They can be strong.

This, however, doesn’t change the fact that stress triggers tachycardia in the same way, every time. It’s an old dog with no new tricks. The challenge is to learn how to sit with that reality and accept it when it’s happening.

That will take practice and a certain level of courage, but what’s the alternative?

If you haven’t gone to your doctor then go get screened. Twice if it makes you feel better. After that though, you need to get your mind focused on stress reduction and not anxiety symptoms.

Symptoms are a sign of something bigger that needs to be dealt with, they aren’t the source of your pain. And, most importantly, they can’t kill you.

 

 Disclaimer

Although tachycardia can be caused by an emotional response to stress, your tachycardia should be evaluated medically.

Tachycardia can be related to serious medical conditions.

 

Comments

  1. says

    Hi Paul,

    I will be turning 40 this year. I’ve been suffering from a high heat rate that I’ve noticed, for almost a year. My resting heart rate is usually between 85 and 100. During the day or when working or moving around, it goes up to about 120. I know that I have a lot of stress, anxiety and tension. My heart rate is really starting to worry me since it’s constant and seems to never be regular. I am REALLY afraid of dying and having a heart attack or stroke. My friend told me to start talking ubiquinol. He says that will help. I don’t currently have health insurance, so I’m trying to figure out a way to control it naturally without meds. I don’t run out of breath or get overly tired of I walk, ride my bike or things like that. My heart rate goes higher, but only to about 140.

    What are your thoughts?

    Thanks,

    Sandi

  2. Roy says

    @kamara
    Its because you have it in your mind all the time that’s the reason it makes you anxious but when you doing something that makes you busy and keep out your thoughts of your heart you won’t feet it racing or beating fast but when you focus to it it seems like its going fast.I know its annoying I don’t know why I can’t stop worrying/thinking of my heart 8 months has passed still in my mind every time I feel it racing I put my hand on my chest or checking my pulse

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