The heart is a vital organ that pumps oxygenated blood throughout the body, which is essential to keep the body's cells functioning properly. According to the Mayo Clinic, a normal heartbeat rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute, but there are several factors that can cause the heart to beat faster.
The most common reason for an elevated heart rate is physical exertion. When the muscles of the body are engaged powerfully, they demand more oxygen than normal. In order to supply the necessary amount of oxygen, the heart must beat more quickly, and the lungs must take in more oxygen to meet the increased demand. Raising the heart rate through physical activity can be beneficial to heart health by increasing the strength of the heart and its ability to deliver blood throughout the body. People that are physically fit tend to have lower resting heart rates, and endurance athletes can have heart rates well below 60 beats per minute.
Emotional state can play a large role in heart rate. When a person is relaxed and comfortable, heart rates tend to be low, near the 60 to 100 range of a normal resting heart rate. When a person experiences a strong emotion, it can release adrenaline, which can spark increased heart beating. Anger, nervousness, anxiety and embarrassment are all possible causes of increased heart rate. Along with increased heart rate, it is common to experience sweating or blushing when experiencing strong emotions.
Tachycardia is a condition where a person's normal resting heart rate exceeds 100 beats per minute. Tachycardia can be caused by a variety of risk factors, including a damaged heart, such as from a heart attack, high blood pressure and heart defects. Use of drugs such as tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, and illegal or prescription drugs may also cause the development of tachycardia, or lead to isolated periods of increased heart rate.
A fever occurs when the body temperature rises above normal which a common symptom for a wide variety of illnesses such as the flu and the common cold. A fever can increase the body's heart rate, especially if the fever is high. Fevers can also cause sweating, shivering or chills, which can make the body feel too cold, causing the heart beat faster as it tries warm up the body.
While an elevated heart rate can result from both normal daily activity and health problems, there are several underlying risk factors that increase the livelihood of experiencing a fast heart beat. Being obese or overweight tends to increase the chances of a fast heart beat, since the body must supply blood to more tissue than those who are at a healthy weight. Having a low level of physical fitness also contributes to fast heart rates, as even mild exertion can stress the heart and lungs. Circulatory problems like peripheral artery disease, coronary artery disease and diabetes may also increase the risk of a fast heartbeat.