What is considered a dangerous heart rate?

Your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats in one minute. It can be measured by measuring your pulse – counting the number of heartbeats per minute on the side of your neck or the thumb side of your wrist. A heart rate that’s too high or too low can be dangerous to your health.

This article discusses a normal heart rate and how a high or low heart rate can negatively affect your health.

What is the ideal heart rate?

A person’s ideal heart rate depends on many factors. The normal resting heart rate range for adults is 60 to 100 beats per minute. However, your resting heart rate can go outside this range, which is perfect for you.

Certain medications can also affect heart rate. For example, beta-blockers can slow a person’s heart rate, while decongestants can increase it.

Heart rate also varies during the day and night. During exercise, your heart beats faster to supply oxygen to your hard-working muscles. At night, your heart rate tends to decrease.

high heart rate

High heart rate is called Tachycardia. However, that’s not always a bad thing. Generally speaking, tachycardia is a heart rate higher than 100 beats per minute.

Causes of high heart rate

There are different types of tachycardia. A higher heart rate naturally occurs when you’re exercising or going through something scary or stressful. You may also have tachycardia if you consume a lot of caffeine or are a heavy smoker.

Tachycardia can also occur when the electrical signals that cause the heart to beat are emitted abnormally. Because your heart is beating faster than it should, it can’t fill up completely. As a result, less blood is sent to the rest of the body.

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Risk of high heart rate

In some cases, tachycardia causes no symptoms. For others, it can cause many negative effects, including:

  • Dizziness
  • syncope
  • pounding heartbeat
  • chest pain or pressure
  • shortness of breath
  • Palpitations (fast, fluttering, or throbbing heartbeats)
  • tired

In severe cases, tachycardia can be dangerous and lead to serious conditions, such as loss of consciousness or a heart attack.

signs of heart attack

A heart attack is a potentially life-threatening event that requires immediate medical attention. In addition to a high or low heart rate, other symptoms of a heart attack may include:

  • chest pain or pressure
  • jaw, arm, neck, or back pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • weakness
  • dizziness/fainting
  • fatigue
  • feel sick and vomit

Seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms suddenly or severely.

low heart rate

Heart rate considered too low is called bradycardia. This usually refers to an adult’s heart rate below 60 beats per minute.

Causes of low heart rate

A low heart rate is not always abnormal. In fact, it can even be a sign of good health.

For example, if you’re an endurance athlete, your heart probably works very efficiently. Your normal heart rate may be closer to 40 or 50 beats per minute, or even lower. This means your heart doesn’t have to pump as fast to deliver oxygen to the rest of your body.

Bradycardia can also be a symptom of an underlying disorder. Low heart rate can occur when electrical impulses do not travel the correct path in the heart or the structures (called nodes) that generate these electrical impulses are damaged.

A low heart rate can also occur with heart disease, heart attack, and other conditions such as hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).

How the electrical system of the heart works

Risk of low heart rate

The symptoms of bradycardia are similar to those caused by a high heart rate. These can include:

  • Dizziness
  • syncope
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Puzzled
  • weakness
  • tired
  • limited athletic ability

Bradycardia can also lead to heart failure and changes (high and low) in blood pressure.

Dangerous heart rate in children

The normal heart rate of infants and children is higher than that of adults. For example, the normal heart rate of a newborn when awake is 100-205 beats per minute. This number decreases as the child gets older. For children aged 6-7, the average heart rate while awake is 75-120 beats per minute.

Heart rates outside the normal range in children can be caused by some of the same problems that affect adults — abnormal firing of electrical signals from the heart or damage to the heart. It can also be a side effect of medication.

Signs of an abnormal heart rate in children

It can be difficult to know when a child has an abnormal heart rate, especially if they are too young to speak. Older children may know they are feeling dizzy or weak or have heart palpitations. Other symptoms in young children may include:

  • pale complexion
  • tired
  • irritability
  • feeding difficulties
  • shortness of breath

When to see a healthcare provider

If you suspect your or your child’s heart rate is too high or too low, see your doctor. You may have tests to determine the cause of your symptoms.

One ECG (ECG or EKG) is usually the first test done to determine the cause of an abnormal heart rate. During this test, electrodes are attached to your chest (and sometimes arms or legs) to detect electrical impulses through your heart.

Your doctor may also have you wear a portable heart monitor for a day (or longer) to record your heartbeat for longer.


In general, the normal resting heart rate for adults is 60-100 beats per minute. However, heart rate varies from person to person, and your ideal heart rate may be above or below this range. Many factors can cause heart rate changes, including exercise, caffeine consumption, smoking, and more. In some cases, a heart rate that’s too high or too low can be a sign of an underlying problem with the heart’s electrical impulses or other medical condition.

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Realizing that your heart rate is outside the normal range can be worrying. Consult your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about your heart rate. Most likely it is not serious, but if it is, early detection and treatment may save lives.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What heart rate indicates a heart attack?

    There is no specific heart rate that indicates a heart attack is occurring. During this event, the heart rate may be higher or lower than normal.

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  • At what heart rate should I go to the doctor?

    Consult your healthcare provider if your heart rate is consistently outside the normal range for adults, or if you experience symptoms such as dizziness or shortness of breath.

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  • What is considered a normal heart rate?

    The normal resting heart rate for most adults is 60-100 beats per minute. The normal resting heart rate is higher in infants and children.

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    What is a normal resting heart rate?