My heart beats so fast when I run

Monday May 20 2019

A heart problem leading to a reduced pumping

A heart problem leading to a reduced pumping efficiency of the left side of the heart may also lead to shortness of breath, cough, chest tightness and an unusually fast heart rate, with or without wheezing 

By Dr Vincent Karuhanga

Whenever I try to run, my heart beats fast and I get tightness in the chest. What can I do?
Eriphahz

Dear Eriphahz,
While exercising, we need more oxygen and glucose to produce energy. The oxygen and glucose both being carried by pumped blood means that we breathe faster and deeper, causing the heart to pump faster and stronger. This requires the support of healthy lungs and a healthy heart.
Therefore, naturally, anybody can get a fast heart rate when they exercise but chest tightness may come in if one runs beyond their body capacity or if they are not physically fit. Anyone exercising requires a warm-up and graded exercise to properly tolerate exercise to avoid your kind of symptoms. It is true that heart or lung problems from diverse causes may show up with symptoms when we put more strain on both organs as we exercise.
If you have been running well and progressively or all of a sudden you start getting chest tightness associated with an unusually faster heart, then you could be having a health issue requiring proper medical investigation and solving.
If chest tightness is associated with cough, wheezing and difficulty breathing, then you may be having the so-called exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, (originally exercise induced asthma). Here the symptoms, especially cough, may begin during exercise and may worsen five to 10 minutes after stopping the exercise. People with asthma, those exercising in a cold, dry or polluted air commonly get this problem. To prevent such symptoms, avoid cold, dry and polluted air or in case of asthma, use a fast acting bronchodilator inhaler (such as Ventolin inhaler) a few minutes before exercise.
A heart problem leading to a reduced pumping efficiency of the left side of the heart may also lead to shortness of breath, cough, chest tightness and an unusually fast heart rate, with or without wheezing.
This so-called cardiac asthma, due to a build-up of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary oedema) may be mistaken for bronchial asthma and may start or worsen with minimal running. Treatments for heart failure can help improve the symptoms for both the heart failure and the cardiac asthma so that one continues exercising as advised by the doctor.
Please visit your doctor for better diagnosis to rule out other causes of the problem including anaemia, a thyroid problem and high blood pressure, among others.

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