How to Treat a Rapid Heart Rate

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A rapid heart rate, known as tachycardia, is a common medical condition in which the heart beats faster than it should. This can be caused by a number of underlying conditions, including heart disease, heavy caffeine or alcohol intake, and smoking. In creating a treatment plan, your physician will try to treat the underlying cause as well as the improper electrical stimulation that is causing the rapid heart rate. According to medical staff at the Mayo Clinic, there are several key ways to treat a rapid heart rate.

  • Perform physical movements called vagal maneuvers. These are physical motions that have an effect on the vagus nerve, which is responsible for stimulating and regulating heart contractions. One common vagal maneuver is simply to cough; this has been shown to stimulate the vagus nerve and slow the heart rate. Also try to contract the anus and stomach muscles used during a bowel movement.

  • Take tachycardia medications, such as flecainide (Tambocor) or propafenone (Rythmol). These anti-rrhythymic drugs are usually given intravenously at the hospital, although your doctor may recommend oral doses for home use. These medications are effective during an episode of intense tachycardia, quickly restoring the heart's normal pace.

  • Receive a cardioversion. In this procedure, doctors and nurses place electrical pads on your chest and administer a shock of electricity. This shock can reset the signals being sent to your heart, often restoring normal rhythm and speed. A cardioversion should only be considered as a last resort.

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