Ask the doctor: How to slow a racing heart

Published: August, 2014

Q. After several episodes where my heart suddenly started racing, I was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia. My doctor said I could try gagging or coughing to help slow down my heart when these episodes occur. Why would those things help?

A. Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) is caused by an electric problem in the area above the heart's lower chambers, or ventricles. This uncommon disorder can cause the heart to beat more than twice as fast as normal—even up to 300 times a minute. It is more common in younger people than in older folks.

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