ZocdocAnswersIs a fast heartbeat a type of heart rhythm problem?

Question

Is a fast heartbeat a type of heart rhythm problem?

I always seemt o have a very fast heartbeat. I'm an active 27 year old female runner. Is this why?

Answer

The heart's electrical conduction system is responsible for generating both a specific type of heart rhythm and a heart rate. In a normal heart, the rhythm is called "sinus" because the electrical activity that leads to a coordinated contraction of the four chambers of the heart originates in the "sinus node." When the body is under stress (such as with exercising) the sinus node acts works on a more frequent basis, causing an increase in the heart beat, which will then allow the heart to meet the metabolic demands of the body. Occasionally, the sinus node will act inappropriately and speed up when it is not supposed to. Additionally, another part of the heart may start to generate electricity which "out-competes" the signals generated by the sinus node. In other circumstances, there may be another stimulus from the body leading to an elevated heart rate (such as a high thyroid hormone level or a low red blood cell count). You should talk to your primary care physician about the specific symptoms that you have been experiencing. He/she can do some simple blood tests to check your thyroid and blood counts, and can do an EKG (electrocardiogram) to get a look at the electrical activity in your heart. Further testing may include the use of a Holter monitor as an outpatient (a device worn around the belt attached to some stickers on your chest; essentially a portable EKG).

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