Harvard Heart Letter

Should I worry about my fast pulse?

Ask the doctor

Q. My pulse is usually on the high side. Does that mean I have a problem with my heart?

A. In otherwise healthy people, I don't usually worry about the heart rate unless it is consistently above 100 beats per minute at rest. Heart rates that are consistently above 100, even when the patient is sitting quietly, can sometimes be caused by an abnormal heart rhythm. They can also mean the heart muscle is weakened by a virus or some other problem that forces it to beat more often to pump enough blood to the rest of the body.

Usually, though, a rapid heart beat is not due to heart disease, because a wide variety of noncardiac factors can speed the heart rate. These include fever, a low red blood cell count (anemia), an overactive thyroid, or overuse of caffeine or stimulants like some over-the-counter decongestants. The list goes on, and includes anxiety and poor physical conditioning.

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