Potential side effects of a rapid pulse rate

A rapid pulse rate or tachycardia is a heart rate higher than 100 beats per minute. This has a variety of causes such as pain, exercise, fear, medications, anxiety, fever, stimulants or issues with the heart muscle or conduction system of the heart.

The various side effects of tachycardia can affect several body systems. The treatment for tachycardia is aimed on correcting the underlying condition responsible for the rapid pulse rate.

What are the general effects of a rapid pulse rate?

The elderly and sick individuals might not tolerate prolonged tachycardia. Nevertheless, many healthy individuals can tolerate it for an extended span of time.

The general effects include:

  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Racing heartbeat

    The potential side effects of tachycardia on the respiratory system generally include coughing and shortness of breath.

  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness

If not treated, tachycardia can lead to a heart attack, heart failure or even sudden death.

What are the effects on the heart?

If a rapid pulse rate is prolonged, it can affect the filling pressures within the heart. Once the heart rate is quick, there is a short period for the atria and ventricles to fill up, thus reduced blood is propelled to the body during every heartbeat. After some time, this results to a drop in the blood pressure.

There is also an increase in the work load of the heart, resulting to an increased oxygen demand in the heart muscle. The body responds via vasoconstriction to increase the blood return to the heart. Initially, this results to an increase in the blood pressure but also a heightened demand for oxygen. This can result to shortness of breath and chest pain.

Effects on the central nervous system

A prolonged rapid pulse rate can also lead to dizziness, lightheadedness, syncope and weakness. As the body tries to fix the low blood pressure due to tachycardia, blood is diverted from the extremities to the vital organs. This results to cool extremities along with tingling and numbness.

Effects on the respiratory system

The potential side effects of tachycardia on the respiratory system generally include coughing and shortness of breath.

It is also likely for pulmonary edema to develop due to a prolonged rapid pulse rate especially if the individual has a weak heart or history of congestive heart failure.

Disclaimer / More Information

The information posted on this page on rapid pulse rate is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn more about the effects on the body, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Saskatoon, Victoria, Surrey, Mississauga, Winnipeg, Red Deer, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.


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