Medical Q&As

Fast heart rate - what's wrong?

I am in my early twenties and my heart always seems to be beating very fast. It is very uncomfortable at times. What could be wrong with me?

Heart rate varies significantly from one person to the next and in the absence of other symptoms it may not be of any significance whatsoever. General fitness levels, age and general state of health, are some of the factors that determine the resting heart rate. For example, a very fit person would tend to have a relatively slow pulse whereas an unfit person could have a faster pulse even when at rest. The pulse rate, as measured at the wrist, coincides with each beat of the heart. The heart rate may rise as a result of fever, pregnancy or even increased anxiety levels. There are many benign reasons for an increased heart rate. It would be unusual for a person in your age group to have a fast pulse as a result of heart disease. However, there are several disorders of cardiac rhythm that give rise to a fast heart rate. Medication can also give rise to a fast pulse rate. For example asthmatics may experience an increase in heart rate if they need to increase the use of their inhaled medication. Sometimes a fast pulse rate can occur as a result of non-cardiac problems such as thyrotoxicosis or over-active thyroid gland. In that particular example you would also expect that the person would also be experiencing several additional symptoms other than an increased heart rate. If you are fearful that your fast heart rate may signify an underlying problem you should visit your GP. Your GP can examine your heart and measure your heart rate and if necessary can organise an ECG. These simple non-invasive measures can clarify if a problem exists or not.