Q: I'm a 64-year-old, active male and have experienced a rapid rise in my heart rate to 190 or more [beats per minute] immediately after vigorous exercise such as a 5K run. I chew several aspirin, and it calms down gradually. Should I be worried?
A: A heart rate of more than 190 beats per minute is considerably faster than usual for a person of your age. In your case, the age-predicted maximum heart rate is 156. While you might exceed this if you are a trained athlete, this could be suspicious for a potentially dangerous arrhythmia. Also, watch for a sudden onset of the rapid heart beat (or a sudden decrease in the heart rate back to normal), irregular heart rhythm or symptoms of chest pain, dizziness or unusual shortness of breath during the episodes. If you are having new symptoms of chest pain, or if you feel faint when the rapid heart rhythm occurs, you should seek emergency medical attention. Most heart rhythm disorders can be diagnosed with a simple, painless test (an electrocardiogram or Holter monitor). I also will note that many people are now wearing various devices that monitor their heart rate when they exercise. These consumer electronic devices may not be entirely accurate. If you are concerned based on the reading of such a device, check your pulse manually to ensure the reading you get is accurate.
-- Dr. John Carter Hemphill, UT-Erlanger Cardiology; member,
County Medical Society
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