British Heart Foundation
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Extreme heart rates when at rest

Hello everyone, I’ll don’t think I can keep this short as there’s a lot going on, I’m not sure I’m in the right forum either, seeing I’m new to the group, but I’ve got a strange thing going on with what I think may be palpitations, but I’m not sure.

I was diagnosed with Adrenal Insufficiency in February and given Hydrocortisone steroids. I’ve noticed a few times over the last 6 weeks that my heart suddenly feels like it’s oiunding out of my chest, and can get quite painful with it.

I wondered if it was due to getting used to the steroids, but when I checked the data on the h

iOS health app, from my Apple Watch, it’s been going on right as far back as when I got the watch in December. Obviously it’s happened longer than the steroids, and thinking about it made me discuss it with my husband who said I’d complained in and of for a good few months.

I saw my GP who sent me for a 48 hour tape, ( results aren’t in yet ), because i was nearly always inactive, when my heart rate would inceprease. One night I was lay in bed reading, and my watch alarm went off telling me I had a reading of 168bpm, over a 10 minute inactive period.

I did some spdeep bepreathing to try to slow it down, it took over 20 mins to go back to settled.

It’s mostly happened between 5 and 6:30am, and has woken me up on more than one occasion at readings of 138bpm, 150bpm, 147bpm etc.

The opposite of the problem is also occurring as I’m getting rest readings of 138 (was the lowest) and in the mid to lower 40’s.

I’m by no means an athlete, as people keep joking to me, I’m registered disabled and live with chronic pain daily.

The ups and downs aren’t related to increase or decrease in pain, I’ve kept a diary to look for a consistency but can’t find anything so far.

I went for a short gently walk yesterday and after being home and settled for over 15 mins, my bpm was alarmingly 203 !

My watch has been checked and isn’t faulty and this is becoming alarming, as it can be 53bpm and over 120+ within a minute.

Has anyone got any advice for me please? I’m not worrying, I feel really calm just about all of the time, (probably to do with lower bpm) but I’m just really puzzled by it all and would like an idea before the results come in of my tape. Typically, it didn’t go over 118 all the time I was monitored! The same night it woke me at 149bpm.

I don’t want to feel fobbed off.

Sorry it’s long winded but I want to give all info. Thanks in advance

4 Replies


I have atrial fibrillation and this is how I first noticed. You will want to see someone to manage it but the first thing is getting it registered and a diagnosis made if it’s not shown on your 24 hour tape. It comes and goes so can be tricky to catch I had it for a couple of years before it was diagnosed but called an ambulance one day when heart rate went over 200 whilst I was sitting. It’s not good to let the heart carry on at the high rates so when it happens call for help/see your GP/ring 111 or 999 and get an ECG taken whilst it’s happening.

AF is an irregular heart beat and is often fast but can alternative with low rates.

Hope this helps - do seek medical help at the time it is happening so it can get captured on an ECG.



This needs checking ASAP high heart rates and low heart rates are both serious especially high can lead to Cardiac arrest.

If its due to Atrial Fibrillation u may also be at risk of blood clots developing and possibly stroke.

Please get this checked by a cardiologist.



I have been taking steroids for 18 years which has caused my adrenal insufficiency, I am now on Prednisolone for life taking 7mgs per day, I also carry an emergency injection kit if I have an adrenal crisis, so far I haven't had to use it. Palpitations are a side effect of steroids and adrenal insufficiency,

I am now waiting for a coronary heart bypass and mitral valve repair. Did my long term taking of steroids cause this ??? I will never know, as many people with heart disease have never taken steroids.

I assume you are under the care of an Endocronologist for the adrenal insufficiency, If so you can call the Endo nurse for advice, I attend Addenbrooks in Cambridge who are very good.


Hi KayeB12,

I’m sorry to hear that you have been experiencing these symptoms. It’s really helpful that you have been keeping a diary. I appreciate that waiting for the results is difficult, but they are very important to determine what rhythm your heart is in as well as the changes in your heart rate.

I would also ask about having an echo scan of the heart to give your doctors more information about the structure and function of your heart. This is helpful to provide supportive evidence to determine whether you need any treatment/what treatment options you have. This again is determined by the results to work out what is causing your symptoms and could range from no intervention to medications, sometimes cardioversion and sometimes pacemakers and ablation (if you are in an abnormal heart rhythm). There is more information about these on our website.

I would also suggest chasing up your results so that you can be seen to discuss them as soon as possible.

You might also find it useful to chat to a cardiac nurse on 0300 330 3311 (calls are a similar cost to 01 or 02 numbers). The Heart Helpline is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.

If you experience severe chest pain, please do not hesitate to call 999.

Take care,



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