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What Is a High Pulse Rate?

Health problems can cause a high pulse rate.
Exercise raises the heart rate.
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  • Written By: Nat Robinson
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 10 March 2014
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The pulse rate is the rate at which the heart is beating. In most cases, the pulse is measured by how many beats the heart produces in one minute increments. Normally, the average pule rate for an adult is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. When the heart rate exceeds 100 beats per minute, the person is said to have a high pulse rate, which may also be known as tachycardia. There can be numerous different causes for an elevated heart rate. A temporary high pulse rate, may be no cause for great concern, although a sustained high rate can be harmful.

There can be several different causes of a high pulse rate. Sometimes the condition can be caused by a health problem. Heart disease can be the cause of a medically induced high heart rate. In addition, some thyroid disorders may also cause this condition. For instance, hyperthyroidism is an example of a condition that may cause an individual to have a higher than normal pulse rate. Additional medical causes may be attributed to a blood disorder such as anemia, an abnormally low blood pressure, infection and dehydration.

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Certain medications can also cause a heightened pulse rate. Decongestants frequently used to treat the common cold can cause this to happen. For this reason, doctors often advise patients with certain heart conditions to forgo taking over-the-counter decongestants and cold medicines. Asthma medicines can also be factors. Occasionally, consuming too much caffeine and drinking an excessive amount of alcohol can also cause the pulse to rise.

One of the most benign causes of a high pulse rate is excessive activity. Exercise is the most common form of activity to increase the pulse rate. Even a moderate amount of activity can place enough stress on the heart to increase the number of beats it must take per minute. For example, a brisk walk can cause an increase in pulse rate.

The symptoms of a high pulse rate can vary. Some people may be able to feel their heart beating at a rapid rate. The sensations of a racing, forceful or pounding heartbeat are medically known as palpitations. If the heart starts to beat excessively fast, more serious symptoms may arise. As the rate climbs, some people develop shortness of breath, have chest pain, become lightheaded and dizzy. One of the most threatening complications of an extremely high pulse can be fainting.

Individuals with an exceptionally high pulse rate should be taken to an emergency room for a medical evaluation. Doctors may perform a manual pulse test first to get a general idea of how fast the heart is beating. Next, the person may undergo a number of cardiovascular tests to properly diagnose the cause of the elevated rate. An electrocardiogram (EKG) may be the first diagnostic test. Depending on the results of the initial test, other cardiovascular exams may follow.

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