01 This is an abnormal heart rhythm where the heart beats faster than it should with impulses generated above the ventricle.
Why does this happen?
First of all, lets’s look at the structure. The heart is made up of four chambers, two upper (the atria) and two lower (the ventricles). These chambers contract in a rhythmic fashion and are responsible for the pumping of blood, and therefore the delivery of oxygen, around the body to the muscles and organs where it is needed. The heart has a natural pacemaker called the sinoatrial node (SA node) which ensures these contractions in the heart are on time an coordinated.
Tachycardia is a form of abnormal heartbeat in which the heart beats faster than usual. Commonly, people with tachycardia do not experience many restrictions to daily life. However, tachycardia can cause discomfort such as dizziness and shortness of breath.
There are many different types of tachycardia but the wider term of supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) relates to impulses that originate above the ventricle – supra meaning above. The most common of these tachycardias are sinus tachycardia (caused by work, exercise etc.), atrial flutters/fibrillations and paroxysmal SVT (PSVT). These fast heart beats can result in the chambers being in a constantly contracted and, therefore, they do not have the ability to relax and fill with blood properly. In turn, this leads to a reduction in blood, and therefore oxygen, delivery around the body.
What are the symptoms?
As with many conditions, symptoms differ depending on the individual and other medical factors. Sometimes there are no symptoms at all. However, when symptoms do arise, they can can last anywhere from 30 seconds to a couple of days.
Whilst experiencing supraventricular tachycardia, some of the symptoms are:
Caffeine, recreational drugs and alcohol can also be responsible for a fast beating heart and, therefore, those diagnosed will be advised to avoid these.
Before a doctor can diagnose your racing heart or supraventricular tachycardia, they will check symptoms and do a thorough examination. This usually involves a blood pressure test and a listen to the heartbeat, using a stethoscope. Often they will also suggest an electrocardiogram (ECG). An ECG is a test to show whether the electric activity in your heart is normal or not. This can be done in a GP surgery and is painless.
If individuals don’t suffer from other heart disorders, supraventricular tachycardia is rarely life threatening. However, the best way of avoiding it is to maintain a healthy diet, undertake regular exercise and avoid smoking and heavy drinking.
If you are worried about your symptoms it is always advised to be checked by a medical professional.
This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.