Can asthma make your heart race?

We all know the feeling of our heart racing – sometimes it’s because we’re excited, sometimes we’re anxious, and sometimes we’ve just had one too many cups of coffee. But what about when your heart starts racing for seemingly no reason at all? If you have asthma, this might be a common occurrence. Here’s everything you need to know about how asthma can affect your heart rate.

What is Asthma?

Before we dive into the relationship between asthma and heart rate, let’s first define what exactly asthma is simple right?

Asthma is an inflammatory disease that affects the airways in your lungs. Essentially, it makes it difficult to breathe by narrowing your airways (not fun!) This can cause symptoms like coughing, wheezing (a whistling sound when exhaling), shortness of breath and chest tightness (yep – definitely not fun).

Can Asthma Make Your Heart Race?

In short…yes! If you suffer from asthma then there’s a good chance that more often than not those powerful pitter-patters aren’t because Ryan Reynolds has given us his winning smile but are instead down to asthma-induced tachycardia. Intrigued? Let me explain.


Tachycardia sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie or perhaps an ancient Greek tale but actually –spoiler alert– it simply means ‘fast heartbeat’. The normal range for resting heart rate for adults ranges between 60–100 beats per minute (bpm) depending on age fun fact: athletes or highly active individuals may fall below 60 bpm.). When people with asthma experience symptoms such as difficulty breathing or coughing fits ’tis never pretty folks, they may feel their hearts start beating faster than usual. It’s like running a race while sitting down. This can be scary, especially if it isn’t something that you’re used to experiencing.

Why Does Asthma Cause Tachycardia?

When someone with asthma is having trouble breathing, their body goes into fight or flight mode (cue the tikka):the body prepares itself for danger even though such danger doesn’t exist. One of the ways it does this is by increasing heart rate and blood pressure – this happens because your brain has decided that getting oxygenated blood round your system faster will improve your odds during said impending doom.

While not exactly useful in modern society when we come up against our stressors mostly not being from giant predators but instead paperwork deadlines or power points presentations – what remains unchanged across the ages is how asthma still mediates a response from our internal systems.

How Is Asthma-Induced Tachycardia Managed?

Although unfortunately there isn’t an eject button on asthmatic symptoms there are methods which help alleviate tachycardia:

1) Inhalers: The most common treatment method for asthma and also the first option to manage tachycardia induced by asthma, inhalers contain medicine that quickly open up airways causing less distress for lungs which leads to less strain on the heart forcing it beat faster resulting in chest pain (I feel like I’m selling these bad boys more than they actually work)

2) Exercise: So here’s where things get schizophrenic – whilst intense exercise can trigger asthma’s tacho-tendencies as previously discussed…low-intensity exercises provide long term relief…..Let me explain!

Nerd Fact Alert: Minute ventilation (the amount of air someone breathe/replaces per minute) required at rest decreases about 20 percent following regular low-to-moderate-intensity exercise training (this reduction could reduce symptoms later down he line!)

3) Medications: In very rare and extreme cases, medication specifically aimed at decreasing heart rate may be prescribed.

So What Does It All Mean?

Asthma can affect your heart rate because when you have difficulty breathing, your body goes into a fight or flight response (damnnn brain why you so fancy?). This causes your heart to start beating faster than normal – this is commonly known as tachycardia. The good news is that although scary, asthma-induced tachycardia isn’t usually life-threatening bonus points!!!

So there we have it; while not the most ideal scenario in times of asthmatic distress our hearts might speed up but never fear with the correct management tips-and-tricks anything (well almost everything) is possible even after too many cups of coffee!

Until next time my asthmatic amigos!