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Is my heart beating faster than what shows on my blood pressure machine? 

When I feel my AFib is acting up, I put on my blood pressure machine to check it out.  The machine will show that my heart is beating irregularly but my heart beat is only 60. Is it possible that it shows my heart is beating normal but it is really beating faster? Thank you kindly. 

submitted by Michael from Fort Myers, Florida on 6/4/2013


Deborah Meyers, MDby Texas Heart Institute cardiologist, Deborah E. Meyers, MD  

Michael, That is a great question and I had to do a bit of research to answer for you.

Digital monitors have a cuff and a gauge that records the pressure. The cuff automatically inflates at the touch of a button. These devices automatically calculate heart rate and check your blood pressure by measuring the changes in the motion of your artery as the blood flows through the artery while the cuff deflates. Actually, these devices are well known to be more inaccurate in patients with irregular heart rhythms such as atrial fibrillation.

Even measuring a pulse rate at the wrist may not be that accurate as some of the beats generated by atrial fibrillation may not generate a pulsation that can be appreciated by even the most sensitive examiner. 

I often measure an apical pulse in my clinic if patients have atrial fibrillation and I doubt what the monitor tells me. That means that I listen with a stethoscope at the apex of the heart and count the number of beats for a minute. Sometimes patients with atrial fibrillation have well controlled heart rates when they are resting but they can go very fast with any amount of exertion. In that case I will have the patient take a brisk walk around the halls in clinic and repeat the apical measurement again for an entire minute. 

So that is a long way of answering your question with a yes. Your heart could actually be beating faster than the monitor is reporting. Hope that helps!!   

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Updated June 2013
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