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What is the difference between tachycardia and bradycardia?

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What is the difference between tachycardia and bradycardia?

Cardiology | by Dr. Ashok B Malpani | Published on 08/05/2024


Tachycardia and bradycardia are heart conditions affecting the heart's rhythm in opposite ways. While both these conditions involve serious implications, comprehending their differences is important for appropriate diagnosis and treatment. We will delve into these conditions and examine how they occur, their causes, diagnostic methods, and treatment options in this blog. Understanding these two conditions is not only about attaining medical knowledge but also a gateway to ensuring cardiac and overall health. If you experience shortness of breath, palpitations, chest pain, or chest discomfort often, then book your appointment with one of the best cardiologists in Kolkata, BM Birla Heart Hospital. With our state-of-the-art technology and a multidisciplinary team of heart specialists, we offer comprehensive treatment. We strive to achieve optimal results for patients with heart conditions.

Please note that this write-up is for informative purposes only and doesn’t replace the relevance of a doctor’s consultation. 

What is Tachycardia?

Tachycardia is a condition determined by a rapid heartbeat, usually surpassing 100 beats per minute in adults. This increased heart rate occurs because of several factors that include stress, physical exertion, fever, medications, or any other underlying heart conditions such as atrial fibrillation. Tachycardia causes certain symptoms such as palpitations and chest pain are some of them. While sporadic occurrences of tachycardia are not dangerous, consistent or severe cases need immediate medical attention. 

What is Bradycardia?

Bradycardia is a heart condition defined by an unusually slow heart rate, often below 60 beats per minute in adults. This condition occurs because of certain factors such as age-related changes, heart diseases, medications, or metabolic imbalances. In bradycardia, the heart loses the ability to pump sufficient blood to fulfill the body's needs causing symptoms like fatigue, dizziness, fainting, etc. While certain cases of bradycardia are asymptomatic and don't need treatment, others might require immediate medical intervention, such as pacemaker implantation, to ensure heart rate regulation and proper blood circulation.

What are the symptoms of Tachycardia and Bradycardia?

Tachycardia and bradycardia can both occur with several symptoms that can substantially influence the well-being of an individual. Here are some of the symptoms for both these conditions:

Symptoms of Tachycardia:

  • Irregular heartbeat or fast pace of heartbeat, often defined as chest pounding.
  • Some people with tachycardia experience chest pain or discomfort ranging from mild to severe.
  • Feelings of dizziness or lightheadedness, sometimes causing fainting spells.
  • Difficulty breathing, specifically during physical activity or periods of heightened heart rate.
  • Extended episodes of tachycardia cause feelings of fatigue or weakness as the heart has to work extra and harder than normal.

Symptoms of Bradycardia:

  • Feelings of tiredness or weakness, as the body doesn’t receive sufficient oxygenated blood.
  • Decreased blood flow to the brain because of a slow heart rate resulting in dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • Insufficient blood flow to the brain may cause fainting or near-fainting episodes.
  • Shortness of breath: Bradycardia can lead to decreased cardiac output, resulting in difficulty breathing, especially during exertion.
  • Chest pain or discomfort: Some individuals with bradycardia may experience chest pain or discomfort, particularly if the heart is not pumping enough blood to meet the body's demands.

What are the causes of Tachycardia and Bradycardia?

Tachycardia and bradycardia occur from different underlying causes that range from physiological responses to pathological conditions.

Causes of Tachycardia:

  • Consuming heavy alcohol regularly 
  • Heavy smoker 
  • Using illegal drugs like cocaine or amphetamines 
  • Side effects of certain medications 
  • Congenital heart defects 
  • Obstructive sleep apnea 
  • Insufficient blood flow in the coronary artery 
  • Structural heart illnesses 
  • Imbalances in electrolytes
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Congenital heart diseases such as QT syndrome
  • Sarcoidosis 

Bradycardia causes

  • Issues with the heart’s sinus node 
  • Heart surgery complications 
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Heart damage due to aging, heart diseases, and heart attack
  • Heart medication side effects 
  • Issues with pathways conducting electrical impulses 
  • Heart tissue infections like Lyme disease or myocarditis
  • Calcium imbalance or potassium in the blood
  • Metabolic issues like hypothyroidism 
  • Obstructive sleep apnea

What are the diagnosis of Tachycardia and Bradycardia?

Diagnosing tachycardia and bradycardia is initiated with a combination of medical history review, physical assessment, and specialized tests intended to evaluate the heart's rhythm and functionality. Here are some of the diagnostic techniques involved:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): It helps in recording the electrical activity of the heart and identifying anomalies in rhythm and rate. This test offers the relevant information about the existence and type of arrhythmia.
  • Holter monitor: This is a portable device worn by the patient for 24 to 48 hours as it helps in recording the heart's electrical activity. This device captures intermittent arrhythmias that are not identified during a standard ECG.
  • Exercise stress test: This test assesses the heart's response to different physical exercises such as stationary bike, treadmill, etc. to monitor ECG and vital signs. It assists in determining exercise-induced arrhythmias and evaluating cardiovascular fitness.
  • Electrophysiological study (EPS): This invasive procedure is initiated in a specialized cardiac laboratory. To identify the arrhythmia source, thin, flexible wires are inserted into the heart through blood vessels, mapping its electrical signals.
  • Blood tests: Laboratory tests are also performed to identify electrolyte levels, thyroid function, and cardiac biomarkers, offering required information about possible underlying causes of arrhythmias.

What are the treatment options for Tachycardia and Bradycardia?

Tachycardia and bradycardia treatment options aim to revive normal heart rhythm, relieve symptoms, and deal with any underlying causes. The particular option depends on the type and severity of the condition including individual patient factors. 

Tachycardia Treatment Options:

  • Medications: It involves beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, or antiarrhythmic drugs to manage heart rate and rhythm.
  • Cardioversion: This offers a controlled electrical shock to the heart to restart its rhythm back to normal.
  • Catheter ablation: This minimally invasive procedure involves the use of a catheter that is guided to the heart to damage abnormal tissue liable for the fast heartbeat.
  • Implantable devices: Pacemakers or implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) are implanted in case of severe cases to regulate heart rhythm and avert the risk of hazardous arrhythmias.

Bradycardia Treatment Options:

  • Pacemaker implantation: It is a tiny electronic device implanted under the patient’s skin in the chest so that it can send electrical impulses to the heart when required to regulate heart rate.
  • Medication adjustment: If bradycardia occurs because of side effects, the healthcare professional will adjust or discontinue the medication as needed.
  • Treatment of underlying conditions: Dealing with underlying causes like hypothyroidism, electrolyte imbalances, or heart diseases assists in mitigating bradycardia.
  • Lifestyle changes: Getting involved in a heart-healthy lifestyle that involves a balanced diet, regular exercise, stress management, and quitting alcohol and tobacco use benefits in supporting overall heart health.


In conclusion, both tachycardia and bradycardia are heart conditions depicting opposite ends of the heart rate spectrum and affect the cardiovascular health and quality of life of a patient. Understanding their unique characteristics, causes, symptoms, diagnostic approaches, and treatment options is important to manage these conditions effectively. By recognizing and dealing with these conditions promptly, healthcare experts can maximize patient care, enhance outcomes, and promote long-term heart health for patients affected by these conditions. If you experience any of the symptoms discussed above, don’t delay to book your appointment with your doctor. You should work with them regularly to ensure appropriate management of these conditions.