Having a high pulse, also known as tachycardia, can be concerning but is usually not serious. A normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute. If your heart rate is consistently above 100 bpm, it would be considered high. There are many potential causes of a high pulse, from common lifestyle factors like stress and anxiety to more serious medical conditions like heart disease. The good news is there are many things you can do at home to help lower your heart rate if it’s high. Read on to learn more about the common causes of a high pulse, when to see a doctor, and effective home remedies to try.
What is Considered a High Pulse?
As mentioned, a normal resting adult heart rate ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute (bpm). Here are the general guidelines for high pulse rates:
- 100-150 bpm: Tachycardia, but may be normal for some people if they are fit and healthy.
- 150-250 bpm: Significantly high, consult a doctor.
- Over 250 bpm: Dangerously high, seek immediate medical care.
It’s important to note that heart rate varies widely between individuals based on factors like fitness level, genetics, medication use, and health conditions. A well-trained athlete may have a very slow heart rate of 40-60 bpm. For some people, a heart rate approaching 100 bpm may be their “normal.” The key is to know what’s normal for your body. If your heart rate is significantly higher than usual, take note.
What Causes a High Pulse?
There are many potential reasons your heart rate may be higher than normal, including:
Exercise and Physical Activity
Vigorous exercise like running naturally raises your heart rate. This is a normal response as your heart works harder to pump oxygenated blood to your muscles. Your heart rate should come back down during periods of rest.
Stress, Anxiety, and Nervousness
The “fight or flight” stress response releases hormones like adrenaline that accelerate your heart rate. It’s very common for anxiety, nervousness, arguments, work deadlines, and stressful events to cause temporary tachycardia. Relaxation techniques can help lower your pulse.
Caffeine, Nicotine, and Drug Use
Consuming stimulants found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, cigarette smoking, and drugs like cocaine can spike your heart rate. Avoid these when possible and limit caffeine intake.
Fever and Illness
Your heart has to work harder when you’re sick. Fevers, common cold and flu, pneumonia, and infections can all raise your resting heart rate. Seek medical treatment for the underlying illness.
Not drinking enough fluids causes your blood volume to drop, making it harder for your heart to pump blood efficiently through the blood vessels. Drink plenty of water and electrolytes.
Medication Side Effects
Some medications like decongestants, corticosteroids, anti-nausea, and ADHD drugs contain stimulants that may unintentionally raise your heart rate. Talk to your doctor about alternatives that don’t affect your heart.
Serious heart conditions like tachycardia arrhythmias, heart infections, coronary artery disease, heart valve problems, and heart failure can all cause a persistent high heart rate. See your doctor to rule out underlying heart issues.
An overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) releases excess hormones that stimulate your heart rate. Other symptoms include sudden weight loss and feeling hot.
Electrolytes like potassium, magnesium, and calcium help regulate your heart rhythm and contractility. Deficiencies, often due to dehydration, can induce tachycardia.
Anemia, meaning you have a low red blood cell count, can make your heart beat faster to compensate for lower oxygen delivery throughout your body. See your doctor for blood tests.
When to See a Doctor
In some instances, tachycardia may warrant medical evaluation and treatment. See your doctor if you experience:
- Resting heart rate consistently over 100 bpm
- Symptoms like dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting
- Irregular pulse or palpitations
- Chest pain or shortness of breath
- Known heart condition that’s worsened
- New and unexplained high pulse
- Heart rate over 150 bpm
Sudden onset of a very rapid heart rate over 250 bpm requires emergency medical care, as it can lead to fainting or cardiac arrest if left untreated.
Your doctor will first want to rule out any underlying heart condition causing your tachycardia symptoms. This may involve blood tests, an EKG to check your heart rhythm, chest x-ray, and echocardiogram ultrasound of your heart. For serious arrhythmias, a Holter monitor that records your heart rhythm for 24-48 hours may be ordered. Treatment depends on the cause but may include medications, medical procedures like cardioversion or ablation catheter surgery, or implanted devices like a pacemaker.
Home Remedies to Lower Your Pulse
If your heart rate is moderately high without severe symptoms, there are many natural ways you can attempt to lower your pulse rate at home, including:
Drink plenty of water and electrolyte sports drinks like Gatorade to prevent dehydration and maintain fluid levels. Dehydration is a common cause of increased heart rate.
Reduce Stress with Relaxation Techniques
Anxiety and chronic stress takes a toll on your heart health. Set aside time each day to practice calming activities like deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or Tai Chi to activate your relaxation response. Getting adequate sleep also helps lower stress hormone levels.
Cut back on stimulant substances like caffeine, energy drinks, and nicotine that can spike your heart rate. Avoid illegal drugs like cocaine that significantly increase heart rate and blood pressure.
Overheating from hot weather, excessive workout, or fever raises your heart rate. Use cooling techniques like fans, cold compresses, ice water baths, and air conditioning. Keep activity levels light when it’s very hot out.
Modify Exercise Habits
Engage in regular moderate aerobic activity, but avoid pushing yourself too hard with intense exercise while your heart rate is high. This prevents putting excess strain on your cardiovascular system.
Practice Slow Abdominal Breathing
Inhaling deeply into your belly and exhaling slowly helps relax your body and lower heart rate. Breathe in through your nose for 5 seconds, hold for 2 seconds, and breathe out through your mouth for 5-7 seconds. Repeat for several minutes.
Wearable devices like fitness trackers with heart rate monitors allow you to see your pulse in real time. As you try relaxation techniques, you can gauge their effectiveness at lowering your heart rate through the tracker feedback.
Reduce Caffeine Intake
Caffeine from coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, and chocolate stimulates your heart. Limit your daily caffeine consumption to no more than 400 mg per day, equal to about 4 cups of coffee. Abstain for several weeks if your heart rate remains high.
Rule Out Medication Causes
Make a list of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you take, including supplements and herbal remedies. Research or ask your pharmacist and doctor about possible stimulant side effects that could raise your pulse. Switch to alternatives that don’t affect your heart.
Increase Magnesium Intake
Magnesium helps control your heart rhythm and deficiency is linked to arrhythmias. Load up on magnesium-rich foods like leafy greens, nuts, seeds, beans, avocados, yogurt and fish or take a 400 mg daily supplement if needed.
Avoid Heavy Meals
Large, heavy meals require extra blood flow for digestion which raises your heart rate after eating. Opt for smaller, lighter meals more frequently to avoid digestive strain. Don’t lie down immediately after large meals.
Practice Yoga and Tai Chi
These mind-body practices combine meditation, deep breathing, and gentle physical postures to relax your nervous system and lower heart rate. Even basic stretching helps.
Listen to Soothing Music
Just 10 minutes daily of calming, slow-tempo music with nature sounds or soft piano lowers stress hormones and slows heart rate. Create a relaxing playlist to listen to before bed or during work breaks.
Laugh Out Loud
Believe it or not, bouts of laughter actually reduce stress hormones and heart rate. Seek out humorous movies, joke books, funny YouTube videos and comedy clubs. Laughter really could be the best medicine for a racing heart!
Get Medical Treatment When Needed
While home remedies can help lower your heart rate if it’s mildly or moderately elevated, it’s important to seek prompt medical treatment if you experience:
- Resting heart rate over 150 bpm
- Sudden onset of a very rapid pulse over 250 bpm
- Irregular heart rhythm or palpitations
- Lightheadedness, dizziness or fainting
- Shortness of breath or chest pain
These signs of tachycardia indicate potential underlying heart disease requiring further evaluation and treatment to prevent complications like stroke, arrhythmia or heart failure. Tell your doctor about your symptoms and any home remedies you’ve tried. With proper diagnosis and care, you can get your racing heart rate back to normal. Don’t hesitate to call emergency services if your symptoms begin severely and suddenly, as urgent medical treatment may be needed.
Having an occasional high heart rate over 100 bpm does not necessarily indicate a major problem if you are otherwise healthy. Try home remedies first to lower your pulse rate through de-stressing techniques, stimulant avoidance, electrolyte balance, light exercise, laughter therapy and more. However, persistent tachycardia over 100 bpm, sudden severe symptoms, or rates over 150 bpm warrant medical assessment to rule out issues like cardiac arrhythmias, infections or thyroid disorders. With the right lifestyle changes and treatment if needed, you can manage a high pulse. Listen to your body and see your doctor for preventative care.