6 Simple Ways to Slow Down Your Heart Rate

August 2022

To control a fast, pounding or fluttering heart rate, also known as palpitations, you should breathe deeply for 3 to 5 minutes. You can also try coughing strongly 5 times, or place a cold water compress on your face. 

A fast heart rate over 100 beats per minute, also known as tachycardia, can change the way your blood flows to your body’s tissues. Some symptoms related to fast heart rates are fatigue, shortness of breath and general malaise. Most times, when palpitations are felt, it is not a serious health problem. It is usually related to stressful situations or anxiety, and can occur with other symptoms like headache or cold sweats. 

If your palpitations last for over 30 minutes, if they occur while you are sleeping, or if you faint as a result, you should call for an ambulance, as these are signs of heart problems. 

How to slow your heart rate 

Some ways to bring your heart rate to normal levels are: 

  1. Stand with your legs straight and bend at the hips to hug your knees or touch your toes
  2. Place a cold compress on your face 
  3. Cough forcefully 5 times 
  4. Exhale slowly with your lips pursed or your mouth slightly open 5 times 
  5. Breathe deeply by inhaling through your mouth and exhaling through your mouth 5 times 
  6. Count down from 60 to 0 slowly while looking at the ceiling 

Symptoms of tachycardia, like fatigue, shortness of breath, general malaise, weight on your chest, palpitations and weakness, should start to decrease after a few minutes of using these techniques. Even if you are able to relieve the fast heart rate, you should avoid food and drinks that can increase heart rate, like chocolate, coffee or energy drinks. 

If your hast heart rate lasts for over 30 minutes, if you feel numbness on one side of the body or if you faint as a result, you should call for an ambulance, as these are signs of a heart problem. These symptoms require treatment in the hospital, which may include the use of IV medication. Learn more about the common symptoms of a heart attack.

Medications to control palpitations 

If tachycardia occurs several times per week, you should see your doctor for assessment. Your doctor may order exams like an ECG, an echocardiogram or an 24-hour holter to assess your heart function. 

After reaching a diagnosis, the doctor may prescribe medication that helps to control fast heart rates, like amiodarone or atenolol. These should only be taken as prescribed by the doctor.

Anxiolytic medication, like Xanax or diazepam, can also help to control increased heart rates related to stress or anxiety. These medications are usually prescribed as PRN, or as needed, when people are experiencing an anxiety attack, for example. 

Natural ways to slow your heart rate 

You can slow down your heart rate naturally by incorporating lifestyle changes into your daily routine. Some examples include avoiding drinks with caffeine or alcohol, and quitting smoking.  

You should also maintain a healthy diet that is low in fat and sugar. Exercise can help to release substances called endorphins, which can cause a feeling of pleasure and happiness. You should also consider partaking in more activities that reduce stress and anxiety, like meditation. 

When to see the doctor 

You should go to the emergency room if: 

  • Your palpitations last for over 30 minutes
  • You experience symptoms like chest pain that radiates to the left arm, numbness, tingling, headaches or shortness of breath 
  • If it occurs more than twice per week 

In these cases, your palpitations may be related to a more serious heart problem, and should be assessed by a cardiologist. 

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Edited by Tua Saude editing team in August 2022. Clinical review completed by Manuel Reis - Registered Nurse in August 2022.

References

  • GOPINATHANNAIR, Rakesh; OLSHANSKY, Brian. Management of tachycardia. F1000Prime Rep. Vol.7, n.60. 1-5, 2015
  • UPTODATE. Patient education: Tachycardia (The Basics). Available on: <https://www.uptodate.com/contents/tachycardia-the-basics?search=Tachycardia&topicRef=936&source=see_link>. Access in 19 Feb 2020
Show more references
  • HEALTH DIRECT. Tachycardia. Available on: <https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/tachycardia>. Access in 19 Feb 2020
Clinical review:
Manuel Reis
Registered Nurse
Manuel graduated in 2013 and is licensed to practice under the Ordem dos Enfermeiros de Portugal, with license #79026. He specializes in Advanced Clinical Phytotherapy.