What is bradycardia?
The heart usually beats between 60 and 100 times a minute in an adult. A slow heart rate can be normal and healthy, such as:
- Physically active adults often have a resting heart rate slower than 60 BPM but it doesn’t cause problems.
- Your heart rate may fall below 60 BPM during deep sleep.
- Elderly people are more prone to problems with a slow heart rate.
A heart rate of fewer than 60 beats per minute (BPM) in adults is called bradycardia, but it could be a sign of a problem with the heart’s electrical system.
How common is bradycardia?
Bradycardia can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of bradycardia?
The common symptoms of bradycardia are:
- Near-fainting or fainting (syncope);
- Shortness of breath;
- Chest pains;
- Confusion or memory problems;
- Easily tiring during physical activity;
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation
In case you faint, have difficulty breathing or have chest pain lasting more than a few minutes, call your doctor immediately.
What causes bradycardia?
- Heart tissue damage related to aging;
- Damage to heart tissues from heart disease or heart attack;
- High blood pressure (hypertension);
- Heart disorder present at birth (congenital heart defect);
- Infection of heart tissue (myocarditis);
- A complication of heart surgery;
- Underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism);
- Imbalance of mineral-related substances necessary for conducting electrical impulses (electrolytes);
- Repeated disruption of breathing during sleep (obstructive sleep apnea);
- Inflammatory disease, such as rheumatic fever or lupus;
- The buildup of iron in organs (hemochromatosis);
- Medications, including some drugs for other heart rhythm disorders, high blood pressure and psychosis.
What increases my risk for bradycardia?
There are many risk factors for bradycardia, such as:
- Heart problems.
Bradycardia is often associated with damage to heart tissue from some type of heart disease. Therefore, factors that increase your risk of heart disease may also increase the risk of bradycardia. Lifestyle changes or medical treatment may decrease the risk of heart disease associated with the following factors:
- High blood pressure;
- Heavy alcohol use;
- Use of recreational drugs;
- Psychological stress or anxiety.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is bradycardia diagnosed?
To diagnose your condition, your doctor will review your symptoms, your medical and family history, and conduct a physical examination.
Your doctor will also order a series of tests to measure your heart rate, establish a link between a slow heart rate and your symptoms, and identify conditions that may cause bradycardia.
For underlying conditions, your doctor may order blood tests to screen that may be contributing to bradycardia, such as an infection, hypothyroidism or an electrolyte imbalance. If sleep apnea is suspected of contributing to bradycardia, you may undergo tests to monitor your sleep.
How is bradycardia treated?
Treatment for bradycardia depends on the type of electrical conduction problem, the severity of symptoms and the cause of your slow heart rate.
- Treating underlying disorders. If an underlying disorder, such as hypothyroidism or obstructive sleep apnea, cause bradycardia, treatment of the disorder may correct bradycardia.
- Change in medications. A number of medications, including some to treat other heart conditions, can cause bradycardia. Your doctor will check what medications you’re taking and may recommend alternative treatments. Changing drugs or lowering dosages may correct problems with a slow heart rate.
- A pacemaker is a battery-operated device that’s implanted under your collarbone. Wires from the device are threaded through veins and into your heart. Electrodes at the end of the wires are attached to heart tissues. The pacemaker monitors your heart rate and generates electrical impulses as necessary to maintain an appropriate rate. Most pacemakers also capture and record information that your cardiologist can use to monitor your heart. You will have regularly scheduled follow-up appointments to check your heart and ensure the proper function of your pacemaker.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage bradycardia?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with bradycardia:
- Having a heart-healthy eating plan that includes a lot of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and low-fat or nonfat dairy foods.
- Being active. Your doctor can tell you what level of exercise is safe for you.
- Staying at a healthy weight.
- Stop smoking.
- Managing other health problems, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Bradycardia (Slow Heart Rate) - Topic Overview. http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/tc/bradycardia-slow-heart-rate-overview#1. Accessed Oct 10, 2016
Bradycardia. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bradycardia/basics/definition/con-20028373. Accessed Oct 10, 2016
Bradycardia | Slow Heart Rate. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Arrhythmia/AboutArrhythmia/Bradycardia-Slow-Heart-Rate_UCM_302016_Article.jsp#.V_u3aOh97IU. Accessed Oct 10, 2016
Slow Heartbeat. http://www.hrsonline.org/Patient-Resources/Symptoms-Diagnosis/Slow-Heartbeat. Accessed Oct 10, 2016
Review Date: November 17, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017