How quickly can the human heart rate rise and lower?

For example lets say a human heart rate is rested and is at 60BPM and that person is suddenly scared to trigger their fight or flight reaction. Lets say their heart rate rises to double (120BPM).

From the above example their rate has gone from 1000ms between beats to 500ms between beats. Can the human heart instantly in one heart beat go from the 1000ms to 500ms between beats or does it need to ramp up? If yes how quickly can the heart rate ramp up?

I understand that each human heart is different, and that the speed increase and decrease will be different from person to person. What I'm looking for is a value that I can safely say the human heart won't exceed.

Similarly the same question goes to your heart going lower.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Heart rate is controlled beat by beat by the brain. Infact the native rate of the heart (the sinus nodal rythym) is around 100 beats per minute. The parasympathetic supply to the heart (through vagus nerve) supresses the rate to around 70-80. So if the parasympathetic flow is supressed, the heart rate will accelerate. Nerve conduction speed will then be the limit of speed at which the heart rate can be regulated. $\endgroup$
    – One Face
    Nov 30, 2016 at 15:27

1 Answer 1


According to the Wikipedia page on Supraventricular tachycardia the heart can go to a new faster rate in the space of a single beat, and then come down again just as quickly, as shown in this image taken from the Wikipedia page.

enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the evidence. I was hoping the above not to be the case so I could apply some sort of validation off the readings from the pulse sensor I am using. $\endgroup$
    – Scott
    Oct 26, 2012 at 16:32

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