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Tachycardia Symptoms: Essential Guide to Types, Causes, and Remedies


Everyone experiences rapid heartbeat or tachycardia symptoms on occasion. When you exercise, you want your heart rate to increase. Likewise, when you’re frightened, under stress, when you experience trauma, and when you’re ill, your heart rate increases. However, tachycardia occurs when you experience a heart rate of over 100 beats per minute when you shouldn't. This condition can have serious consequences and requires a visit to your doctor.


Learn More:

» Read our complete long-read article on tachycardia symptoms and Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome
» Adrenal Fatigue FAQs
» Take our 3-minute test to see if you may have Adrenal Fatigue


Tachycardia describes a heart rate that exceeds normal. Typically, healthcare professionals consider a heart rate above 100 beats per minute to fall into the tachycardia range.

Some of the time, tachycardia symptoms or complications may not appear. However, if it continues without treatment, severe consequences can result. These consequences include:

  • Stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Sudden cardiac arrest or even death

Your Heart’s Electrical System

An image of a heart in between defibrillatorsTo understand how tachycardia works, it's important to understand your heart’s electrical system.

Your heart consists of four chambers, two upper chambers (atria) and two lower chambers (ventricles). Normally, a natural pacemaker called the sinus node in the right atrium controls your heartbeat. This sinus node utilizes an electrical impulse to start each of your heartbeats.

These electrical impulses go across your atria causing the muscles there to contract to pump blood into the ventricles. From there, the impulses reach the atrioventricular (AV) node, typically the only path for them to follow to travel to the ventricles.

The AV node slows down the electrical signal to give the ventricles enough time to fill with blood. Once the ventricles become filled with blood, the electrical signal stimulates the ventricles to contract, forcing blood to the lungs or other parts of the body.

But if anything disrupts the electrical signal in this complex system, tachycardia, bradycardia (slow heartbeat) or irregular heartbeat can occur.


Types of Tachycardia

Researchers and clinicians delineate several types of tachycardia. All of them involve some disruption of the electrical signal that works to keep your heart rate normal.

Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation describes a rapid heart rate brought on by chaotic and irregular impulses in the atria. As a result, you experience rapid, weak, and uncoordinated atrial contractions. The most common type of tachycardia, atrial fibrillation may occur temporarily. On the other hand, some episodes will not stop without treatment.

Atrial Flutter

Your heart’s atria beat at a regular rate normally, but begin moving very fast in atrial flutter. As a result of this fast rate, you experience weak contractions of the atria. Irregular circuitry in the atria causes this flutter. Episodes may go away spontaneously, or they may require treatment. People who suffer from atrial flutter also may experience atrial fibrillation at times.

Ventricular Fibrillation

This type of tachycardia occurs when rapid and chaotic electrical impulses cause the ventricles of your heart to quiver rather than contract normally. Therefore, not enough blood gets pumped out of the ventricles to the rest of the body. As a result, this type of tachycardia can become deadly if an electric shock to the heart doesn’t occur within minutes. Ventricular fibrillation can occur during or after a heart attack or because of severe physical trauma such as being struck by lightning.

Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT)

This type of tachycardia begins in the atria of your heart where the electrical signals fire abnormally. Therefore, they interfere with the electrical impulses coming from your body’s natural pacemaker, the sinoatrial node. As a result, your heart beats faster than normal. This leads to the chambers of your heart not filling with blood properly and not pumping blood adequately to your body.

And two other forms of this type of tachycardia include paroxysmal atrial tachycardia (PAT) and paroxysmal ventricular tachycardia (PVT).

Those who will most likely experience this type of tachycardia include:

  • Children (SVT occurs commonly in children with tachycardia)
  • People who smoke and drink heavily
  • People who become physically fatigued
  • Young people who become anxious
  • Women more frequently than men
  • People who drink large amounts of caffeinated beverages

SVT does not typically occur with heart attack or mitral valve problems.

Sinus Tachycardia

 

This type of tachycardia describes a normal increase in your heart rate. In it, your sinoatrial node fires faster than normal, but your heart continues to beat normally. This means that sinus tachycardia is essentially a normal reaction to some conditions, such as:

  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Fever
  • Strenuous exercise
  • Some legal and illegal substances

Less common causes of this type of tachycardia include:

  • Severe bleeding
  • Increased thyroid activity
  • Anemia
  • Heart damage from a heart attack or heart failure

Ventricular Tachycardia

This type of tachycardia begins in the lower chambers, ventricles, of your heart. You may tolerate it well if you have no underlying heart condition. On the other hand, with such an underlying condition the tachycardia may become life-threatening and require immediate medical intervention. And episodes may occur briefly and cause no harm. But episodes lasting for several seconds may become a medical emergency.

This condition interferes with the electrical impulses from the sinoatrial node resulting in a rapid heartbeat. In addition, it prevents the chambers of your heart from filling with blood and pumping sufficient blood to the rest of your body.

Causes of Ventricular Tachycardia

Most of the time, this type of tachycardia comes as a result of other disorders interfering with your heart’s electrical system. For example:

  • Cardiomyopathy that distorts your heart physically
  • Illegal drug use
  • Side effects of some medications
  • Lowered coronary artery flow leading to lower oxygen levels in heart tissue
  • Sarcoidosis (an inflammatory condition affecting skin and body tissue)

Tachycardia Symptoms

An image of an electrocardiogram result with heart shaped objects on the paperTachycardia symptoms can vary depending on which type of tachycardia you have. Most of the common symptoms include:

  • Palpitations
  • Fluttering in the chest
  • Fainting or syncope
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pressure, tightness, or pain (angina)
  • Bounding pulse
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Tiredness
  • Racing heart or irregular heartbeats

Conventional Remedies for Some Tachycardia Symptoms

The typical therapy for tachycardia symptoms can range from no therapy to emergency hospitalization. Deciding factors include the strength of symptoms and whether or not you suffer from underlying conditions.

Supraventricular Tachycardia

Many people with this type of tachycardia do not require treatment. But if the episodes continue for some time, some kind of medical intervention may prove necessary. These include:

  • Carotid Sinus Massage.  Your healthcare professional may try gentle massage on your neck where the carotid artery splits into its two branches.
  • Eyeball Pressure.  Another intervention consists of gently pressing on your eyeballs with your eyes closed. A trained healthcare professional should do this procedure.
  • Valsalva Maneuver. This procedure consists of holding both nostrils closed while blowing air through your nose.
  • Dive Reflex. This reflex occurs when your body suddenly becomes immersed in cold water. It produces bradycardia, among other actions.

Other interventions require lifestyle changes to help slow your heart rate. For example:

  • Stopping smoking
  • Cutting down on alcohol consumption
  • Getting more rest
  • Cutting down on the use of caffeinated beverages.

However, if you suffer from Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, you may need medications or ablation to control paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia symptoms.

Sinus Tachycardia

Most of the time, sinus tachycardia symptoms will not need medical intervention. However, if they persist, you should consult your healthcare professional. He or she should consider not just managing the symptoms, but investigating whether you may suffer from an underlying more serious condition.

Ventricular Tachycardia

The causes of ventricular tachycardia symptoms are essential in deciding on the appropriate remediation efforts. These may include:

  • Medication
  • Surgery
  • Radiofrequency ablation
  • In extreme cases, immediate electrical defibrillation

Potential Complications of Tachycardia

An image of a person clutching his chestAs with any health condition, tachycardia brings with it some potential complications. These complications depend on the type of tachycardia you experience, how long your rapid heartbeat lasts, how fast your heart beats, and any underlying heart condition you may suffer from.

Possible complications include:

  • Blood clots that may lead to stroke or heart attack
  • Fainting spells or unconsciousness that may occur frequently
  • Heart failure, or the inability of your heart to pump sufficient blood
  • Sudden death, typically only associated with ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation

Risk Factors for Developing Tachycardia

As with many illness conditions, a family history of tachycardia will increase your risk of developing the condition. In addition, any other condition that puts a strain on your heart or that may damage heart tissue can increase your risk. For example, these conditions include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Heavy caffeine use
  • Heart disease
  • Anemia
  • Diabetes
  • Overactive or underactive thyroid
  • Anxiety or stress
  • Use of stimulant drugs
  • Sleep apnea
  • Smoking

Chronic Stress and Tachycardia

Chronic stress is a common condition, but it can lead to a condition known as Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS), resulting from fatigued adrenal glands. This condition also increases the risk of developing tachycardia and potential complications increases.

AFS begins when chronic stress depletes your adrenal glands’ ability to produce sufficient cortisol to fight the effects of stress. This condition develops over time, beginning as subclinical symptoms and eventually developing into a debilitating condition.

The NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response is another natural mechanism that your body uses to deal with stress and to attempt to maintain homeostasis. The NEM consists of six inter-related circuits with three organs or systems in each circuit. What affects one of these circuits also affects others due to the inter-related nature of the circuits. And when one of the circuits becomes dysregulated due to chronic stress, others will also become dysregulated, generating sometimes significant symptoms, including severe tachycardia.


The Cardionomic Circuit's Role In Tachycardia Symptoms

An image of an epinephrine vialThe Cardionomic circuit of the NEM is the most involved in tachycardia symptoms. This circuit consists of the cardiovascular system, the autonomic nervous system, and the adrenal glands.

Your autonomic nervous system controls involuntary functions of your body including heart rate, blood pressure, and the fight or flight response to stress. Neurotransmitters and hormones such as acetylcholine, dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine (adrenaline) work to regulate the autonomic nervous system. Any condition affecting the autonomic nervous system is called dysautonomia.

POTS, or postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, is one type of dysautonomia that involves low blood pressure and fast heart rate when standing. When you lie down, around 25% of your blood pools in your chest cavity. So, if you stand up, a significant amount of that blood is pulled to the lower part of your body by gravity. Therefore, in order to prevent fainting and to assure sufficient blood to your brain, the sympathetic nervous system, one aspect of the autonomic nervous system, activates and releases norepinephrine into your bloodstream. It quickly reaches your heart and peripheral blood vessels, narrowing them and increasing your heart rate. As a result, more blood flow to your brain prevents fainting.

Without norepinephrine, you could not remain in an upright position for day-to-day living. A lot of the POTS and tachycardia symptoms come from an inability to move blood quickly to the brain.

Norepinephrine and Chronic Stress

When you come under stress from any source, your body releases cortisol, norepinephrine, and epinephrine to deal with it. But under ordinary circumstances, once the stress diminishes and your body returns to normal, the levels of these hormones also return to normal.

However, if stress continues and becomes chronic, more and more norepinephrine floods your system. Sympathetic overtone occurs in a body chronically flooded with norepinephrine. As a result, your brain remains continually on high alert and your heart remains ready to run from stressors or fight them. People who suffer from advanced AFS live continually in a state of alarm as a result of this response to stress.

This leaves your cardiovascular system at risk for POTS and tachycardia symptoms.

The Role of Epinephrine

Another of the neurotransmitters/hormones affecting the autonomic nervous system is epinephrine. This very powerful biochemical plays a minimal role in everyday life, but when stress becomes severe and chronic, its role increases. Your body’s last response to stress, epinephrine comes from the fight or flight response. Above all, its role is to supply blood to your brain and muscles so you can survive.

If epinephrine continues to flood your system, significant symptoms can develop. Your heart rate will rise significantly due to the nodes supplying electrical impulses to your heart being bathed in epinephrine. They can become overstimulated and ultimately damaged.

This may result in several conditions that occur due to an irregular heartbeat. For example:

  • Atrial fibrillation
  • POTS
  • Supraventricular tachycardia
  • PVCs
  • Idiopathic sinus tachycardia

In addition, an excessive heart rate leads to increased reactive metabolites at a cellular level, which then cause abrasion to the cardiac nodes due to inflammation.

POTS

Activation of the sympathetic nervous system in normal people tends to bring about an increase in heart rate by 10-15 beats per minute and a slight increase in blood pressure. This becomes normalized very quickly by an automatic response involving blood vessel dilation.

However, with some people, this mechanism fails and the normalization of blood flow to the heart and brain doesn’t occur. This sets in motion POTS and tachycardia symptoms.

POTS syndrome refers to a collection of symptoms. These symptoms occur throughout your body because the functions of the autonomic nervous system affect all parts of your body. Some of the symptoms of POTS are:

  • Lightheadedness or dizziness. These occur typically upon standing or when sitting for a long time. It feels like almost fainting. About 30% of people with POTS do experience syncope.
  • Fatigue and lethargy. A vast majority of people with POTS experience significant fatigue.
  • Fast heart rate. A sense of your heart pounding commonly occurs with POTS. Atrial fibrillation or supraventricular tachycardia symptoms may become triggered.
  • Brain fog. Common before or after bouts of POTS, this may reflect blood profusion problems to the brain.
  • Visual problems. Excessive glare, blurriness, or tunnel vision can occur with POTS.

Natural Strategies for Regulating the Cardionomic Circuit

An image of a box of medicine labeled as antidepressant medicationA number of natural methods for regulating the cardionomic circuit and normalizing many of the tachycardia symptoms can be utilized. For example:

Supplements to Try

  • Talk to your doctor about using metabolic cardiac stimulants such as CoQ10, hawthorn, and carnitine.

Avoid Overstimulating Herbs, Meds, and Supplements

  • Avoid metabolic stimulants such as weight reduction medications.
  • Avoid natural compounds that may stimulate the body such as adrenal glandulars.
  • Stay away from caffeine and non-herbal tea.
  • Do not use stimulatory herbs such as green tea, ashwagandha, and licorice.
  • Avoid excess thyroid replacement hormones that may overstimulate the heart and metabolism.

Additional Medications to Avoid

  • If possible, avoid sleeping medications.
  • Avoid SSRI and antidepressant medications if possible.
  • Stay away from medical cannabis, even though you may gain some benefits from it.
  • Avoid cardiac anti-arrhythmic medications unless you have no choice.
  • However, do not stop taking medications or supplements abruptly to avoid rebound reactions. 

Improve Detoxification and Liver Function

  • Decrease systemic inflammation to reduce reactive metabolites
  • Support liver function gently but don’t incur a detoxification reaction
  • Help the body gradually remove toxic agents.
  • Decrease congestion of the extracellular matrix to increase the smooth flow of epinephrine and norepinephrine metabolites from your body.

Lifestyle Factors

  • Keep temperatures as constant as possible
  • Avoid over-exercising because it can lower your ability to clear epinephrine from your body. Use gentle core exercises to support your parasympathetic response.
  • Be sure to stay hydrated to keep up blood volume.
  • Maintain stable electrolytes, particularly potassium and sodium.

Address Adrenal Fatigue and Reduce Stress

  • Decrease emotional stress that may increase reactive metabolites
  • Rebalance cortisol output from the adrenals to normalize the HPA axis
  • Gently support the adrenal glands but do not overstimulate them.
  • Consider using the adrenal fatigue diet.
  • Talk to a health professional about going on an adrenal recovery plan.

Conclusion

An image of a woman drinking water out of a sports bottleThere are many different types of tachycardia that can lead to tachycardia symptoms. In general, symptoms can range from hardly any to very severe. Regardless of the intensity of your symptoms, if your tachycardia continues you should consult with your healthcare professional. Continuing tachycardia symptoms may indicate a more serious disorder.

Tachycardia symptoms may also present similar symptoms to those found in AFS. One of the symptoms of advanced AFS is tachycardia. This suggests adrenal issues or imbalances in the Cardionomic circuit of the NEM could be involved. Disturbances of the Cardionomic circuit of the NEM stress response may also lead to tachycardia in the form of POTS. Addressing your tachycardia symptoms from a natural standpoint with AFS in mind may be of benefit.

If you are suffering from tachycardia symptoms, here are a few things you can do to alleviate the situation.

  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and get plenty of rest.
  • If you suffer from AFS, do what you can to reduce your overall stress load and rebalance your Cardionomic circuit.
  • Even if you only experience very mild tachycardia symptoms, consult your healthcare professional to make sure there is no underlying serious condition.

Learn More:

» Read our complete long-read article on tachycardia symptoms and Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome
» Adrenal Fatigue FAQs
» Take our 3-minute test to see if you may have Adrenal Fatigue

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

While tachycardia symptoms can be normal at times, there are also times when these symptoms indicate something wrong with your heart and other body systems. Knowing when to seek medical care and when to simply rest is valuable information. And it’s important to know there are natural ways of dealing with these symptoms.

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