Overview of bradycardia or slow heart rate
Your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats in one minute. Heart rate is a measure of cardiac activity. A slow heart rate is considered anything slower than 60 beats per minute for an adult or child at rest.
Your heart rate should be strong and regular without any missed beats. If it’s beating slower than the normal rate, it might indicate a medical problem.
In some cases, a slow heart rate is an indication of an extremely healthy heart. Athletes, for instance, often have lower than normal resting heart rates because their heart is strong and doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood throughout the body.
However, when a slower heart rate is uncommon or accompanied by other symptoms.
Symptom of bradycardia
The main symptom of bradycardia is a slow heart rate. Some have no other symptoms. Other people create experiential characteristics. In these cases, a severe heart attack is more likely due to a serious problem.
Some common symptoms of bradycardia are:
- Feelings of fatigue and weakness.
- Epilepsy or dizziness
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty breathing while working
When a serious medical condition causes bradycardia and a person is not treated, more serious symptoms appear.
Among them are:
- Cardiac arrest, which means that the heart stops
- Chest pain
- High or low blood pressure
- Heart failure
Understanding your heart rate by the numbers
You can measure your own heart rate. First, find your heart rate by holding a finger to the radial artery at the wrist. Then, count the number of beats per minute while you’re resting.
Other places your heart rate can be measured are at the neck (carotid artery), the groin (femoral artery), and the feet.
Here are some numbers to keep in mind:
- The resting adult heart rate is normally 60 to 100 beats per minute.
- Athletes or people on certain medications may have a lower resting normal rate.
- The normal heart rate for children aged 1 to 12 years is 80 to 120 beats per minute.
- The normal heart rate for infants-age 1 to 12 months is 100 to 170 beats per minute.
Causes of bradycardia
The chances of getting bradycardia increase as you get older, though that’s true of most heart conditions. The causes of bradycardia can vary greatly from one person to the next.
The abnormal rhythm can show up after a heart attack or as a side effect of heart surgery. Other things that can lead to it:
- Certain medications, such as those to treat high blood pressure and other arrhythmias, or abnormal heartbeats.
- A congenital defect.
- Thyroid disease, an imbalance of hormones in the body.
- Obstructive sleep apnea, when your breathing pauses many times throughout the night.
Bradycardia risk factors
Risk factors that contribute to bradycardia:
- Age: Men and women 65 and older need to maintain a slower heart rate.
- Congenital heart defect: Problems with the structure or function of the heart at birth can cause a slow heart rate.
- Electrolyte imbalance: Any abnormality in the body’s mineral balance, including calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphate, potassium, and sodium, can lead to a slow or irregular heart rate.
- Heart infection: Some bacteria, viruses, and parasites infect the heart muscle, causing inflammation and damage to irregular heartbeats.
- Previous heart attack: A heart attack weakens the heart muscle or causes problems with its electrical system.
- Low thyroid: Abnormally low thyroid hormones reduce the heart rate.
- Medications for other heart problems: Some medications to treat high blood pressure or other heart conditions, such as beta-blockers, antiarrhythmics, and digoxin (for heart failure) can cause bradycardia.
To diagnose bradycardia, we ask you about your medical history and do a physical exam. We use advanced diagnostic methods and techniques to carefully diagnose, treat, and monitor the condition effectively. Common diagnostic procedures for bradycardia include:
- Blood tests: Blood tests measure the levels of certain fats, cholesterol, sugar, and proteins in the blood, which can indicate bradycardia and other heart conditions.
- Electrocardiogram (EKG): This test measures the electrical activity of the heart and helps determine if parts of the heart are dilated, overactive, or damaged. The electrical currents of the heart are detected by 12 to 15 electrodes connected to the arms, legs and chest with adhesive tape.
EKG only diagnoses bradycardia when the patient is in the doctor’s hospital. For the long-term follow-up, we may suggest one of the following:
- Event Monitor: This portable EKG device records your heart rate when the button is pressed. It can be used for weeks or until symptoms appear.
- Holter Monitor – This portable EKG device continuously records heart rhythms and is worn for 24 to 48 hours during normal operation.
- LINQ Insertable Heart Monitor: This small, wireless and powerful insertable heart monitor is ideal for patients experiencing rare symptoms that require long-term monitoring or ongoing maintenance.
If your doctor decides that you have bradycardia, the treatment plan will be based on the likely cause of the problem.
For instance, if the cause is hypothyroidism, or low thyroid function, treating that may take care of the heart rate issue.
If there is no clear physical cause, your doctor may change medications that might be slowing your heart. Beta-blockers are sometimes prescribed to relax your heart muscle. But if they cause you to have a really slow heart rate, your doctor might lower the dosage or give you a different drug.
Some cases of bradycardia cause no symptoms or complications. However, if bradycardia is significant enough to cause symptoms, complications can include:
- Frequent epilepsy (syncope): When the heart does not pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the brain, epilepsy and collapse-related injuries can occur.
- Heart failure: When the heart cannot efficiently pump oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body, symptoms affect various body systems.
- Sudden cardiac arrest or death – insufficient blood flow causes the heart to stop beating – loss of consciousness. Breathing can also stop. This is a very rare problem and usually appears in severe cases.
The most effective way to prevent bradycardia is to reduce your risk of developing heart disease. If you already have heart disease, monitor it and follow your treatment plan to lower your risk of bradycardia.
Prevent heart disease
Treat or eliminate risk factors that may lead to heart disease. Take the following steps:
- Exercise and eat a healthy diet. Live a heart-healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly and eating a healthy, low-fat, low-salt, low-sugar diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight increases your risk of developing heart disease.
- Keep blood pressure and cholesterol under control. Make lifestyle changes and take medications as prescribed to correct high blood pressure (hypertension) or high cholesterol.
- Don’t smoke. If you smoke and can’t quit on your own, talk to your doctor about strategies or programs to help you break a smoking habit.