Which Medicines Might Raise My Heart Rate?

Several medications can affect the electrical signals in your heart and make your heart beat faster. (The medical term for a fast heart rate is tachycardia.)

If you have a fast heart rate because of a medication, you also may feel:

Whatever you think the reason may be, you should call 911 if you:

  • Have a hard time breathing
  • Have chest pain that lasts more than a few minutes

Asthma Medicines

Many of these can cause a fast heartbeat, including inhaled corticosteroids, albuterol, inhaled long-acting beta-2 agonists, leukotriene modifiers, and oral methylxanthines.

Antibiotics

Azithromycin (Zithromax) is an antibiotic that may speed up your heart rate. Other antibiotics, such as levofloxacin, amoxicillin, and ciprofloxacin, can change your heart rate, too. It’s more likely to happen if you have heart disease.

Cough, Cold, and Allergy Medicines

Many over-the-counter decongestants have pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine. These ingredients can cause heart palpitations or raise your blood pressure.

Thyroid Medicine

If your thyroid doesn’t make enough of a certain hormone (a condition called hypothyroidism), you may take a drug called levothyroxine (Levothroid, Levoxyl, Synthroid) to replace that hormone. A fast heartbeat is a possible side effect of that drug.

Antidepressants

Certain medicines used to treat depression can raise your heart rate. They include serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) such as desvenlafaxine, duloxetine, and venlafaxine, and tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline, clomipramine, desipramine, and others.

Supplements

Some supplements can trigger a fast or irregular heartbeat. Examples include bitter orange, valerian, hawthorn, ginseng, and ephedra.

What to Do

Talk to your doctor if you notice any changes in your heart rate. If it’s happening because of a medicine you take, your doctor can make some changes that should help:

  • Change your dose.
  • Switch you to a different medicine.
  • Change to how you take a medicine. For example, you may have fewer side effects if you breathe in a medication instead of taking it as a pill or liquid.

Your doctor can also tell you which over-the-counter medicines are less likely to cause heart rhythm problems.

If you have a heart problem, talk to your cardiologist (your heart doctor) before you take any prescription or over-the-counter medicines. Some medicines and supplements can cause serious complications on their own or when you take them with other medicines.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Suzanne R. Steinbaum, MD on January 21, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

FDA: “Learning About Side Effects,” “Thyroid Medications: Q & A with Mary Parks, M.D.”

Mayo Clinic: “Tachycardia,” “Phenylephrine (Nasal Route),” “Albuterol Side Effects: Can I Avoid Them?”

American Lung Association: “Asthma Medicines Chart.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Your Heart and the Big 4 Med Types to Avoid,” “Heart Patients: 3 Common Medications You May Need to Avoid,” “Heart Palpitations.”

American Academy of Family Physicians: “Decongestants: OTC Relief for Congestion,” “Types of Antidepressants.”

Harvard Medical School: “Skipping a Beat—the Surprise of Heart Palpitations,” “Don’t Let Decongestants Squeeze Your Heart.”

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