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What’s Considered A Dangerous Heart Rate?

Heart rates can vary from person to person, but what’s considered normal? And when is a heart rate considered dangerous? Read on to learn more.

Fast heart rate

When your heart rate is too fast, it’s called tachycardia. For adults, a fast heart rate is generally defined as a heart rate over 100 beats per minute.

However, what’s considered too fast may also depend on your age and overall health.

There are many different types of tachycardia. Their classification is based on their cause and the part of the heart they affect. Experiencing tachycardia may be temporary.

Some possible causes of tachycardia can include:

  • an underlying health condition
  • anxiety or stress
  • fatigue
  • heavy caffeine consumption
  • heavy alcohol consumption
  • electrolyte imbalance
  • fever
  • intense or strenuous exercise or physical activity
  • side effects from medication
  • cigarette smoking
  • certain drug use (such as cocaine)

Slow heart rate

When your heart rate is too slow, it’s referred to as bradycardia. Bradycardia is typically defined as a heart rate that’s less than 60 beats per minute. For athletes and people that exercise regularly, a heart rate of under 60 beats per minute is normal and even healthy.

Some possible causes of bradycardia include:

  • side effects from medications
  • electrolyte imbalance
  • obstructive sleep apnea
  • an underlying health condition

When it’s dangerous

As mentioned earlier, both tachycardia and bradycardia can be indicators of an underlying health condition. If you’re experiencing either, you could have an underlying condition that requires medical evaluation and treatment. Tachycardia can be caused by an underlying health condition such as:

  • anemia
  • congenital heart disease
  • heart disease that’s affecting blood flow
  • hyperthyroidism
  • injury to the heart, such as from a heart attack

Bradycardia can be caused by the following conditions:

  • congenital heart disease
  • damage to the heart (which can come from aging, heart disease, or a heart attack)
  • hypothyroidism
  • inflammatory diseases, such as lupus or rheumatic fever
  • myocarditis, an infection of the heart

If you experience a heart rate that’s too high or too low for an extended period of time, it can lead to a variety of potentially serious health complications, including:

  • blood clots
  • heart failure
  • recurring fainting spells
  • sudden cardiac arrest

When to see a doctor

You should visit your doctor if your heart rate is consistently above 100 beats per minute or below 60 beats per minute (and you’re not an athlete).

In addition to a heart rate, you should look out for other symptoms such as:

  • being short of breath
  • fainting
  • feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • feeling fluttering or palpitations in your chest
  • having pain or discomfort in your chest

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