Understanding a Slow Heart Rate

Understanding a Slow Heart Rate

It's common to experience a slow heart rate as you get older, but it's also something that your doctor needs to monitor. Find out what a slow heart rate means for your health, and when it's time to seek treatment.

It’s common for everyone’s heart beat rate to slow down at rest, but some people have a chronically slow heart rate that causes symptoms such as fatigue and light headedness.

This condition is called bradycardia, and it’s more common as you age. Mild cases of bradycardia don’t have symptoms, but in severe cases it can cause chest pain, shortness of breath, and may even lead to cardiac arrest.

Are you doing everything you can to manage your heart condition? Find out with our interactive checkup.

A normal heart beat rate is between 60 and 100 beats a minute, says Joshua D. Moss, MD, a cardiologist at the Heart Rhythm Center at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Bradycardia is defined as having a heart rate of less than 60 beats a minute. In reality, you can have periods when your heart beat rate goes below 60 and not have bradycardia, Dr. Moss says. It can happen when you’re sleeping, or it can occur in highly conditioned athletes when they’re at rest.

How Bradycardia Is Detected

You may be prompted to find out if you have a slow heart rate if you have certain symptoms. However, some people with the condition don’t have any symptoms.

Typical symptoms include excess fatigue — to the point of feeling exhausted from walking or climbing stairs — and light headedness. When bradycardia is more severe, you may experience shortness of breath, chest pain, and fainting. If severe bradycardia goes untreated, it could lead to cardiac arrest, meaning the heart stops beating, and that can lead to death.

Not everyone with bradycardia has symptoms. Your doctor may discover a slow heart rate during a routine office visit — another good reason for regular check-ups — and will probably send you for an electrocardiogram and other tests, Moss says. If the tests find that you do have mild bradycardia and you don’t have symptoms, your doctor will keep an eye on your condition, but you may not need treatment.

What Causes Bradycardia

Your heart has a built-in pacemaker called the sinoatrial (SA) node that tells your heart how quickly to beat. As you age, the sinoatrial node can slow down, and that slows down your heart beat rate. Another cause of bradycardia is when the atrioventricular (AV) node stops working well and leads to a slower heart rate, Moss says. The AV node, in normal circumstances, receives the electrical impulse from the SA node, and carries the impulse throughout the bottom chambers of the heart. This electrical impulse is designed to stimulate mechanical contraction, which in turn, pumps blood throughout the body.

The most common cause of problems with the SA or AV nodes is aging. An SA node that stops firing properly typically begins when people are in their seventies, although a congenital problem can cause it to happen in younger people.

Heart disease can accelerate these problems, so maintaining good heart health by exercising and eating a healthy diet can keep your heart beat rate in a healthy range.

In some cases, a slow heart rate can be the result of blood pressure medication, which can lower your heart rate.

How Bradycardia Is Treated

A bradycardia prognosis depends on the cause. If it’s a serious dysfunction of the AV node that’s causing the slow heart rate, doctors recommend getting a pacemaker, whether or not you’re having symptoms. “We worry that in such cases there’s a risk that it can get worse without warning and lead to cardiac arrest,” Moss explains.

But it’s more common for elderly patients to have a dysfunction of the SA node or a less severe problem with the AV node, Moss says. In these situations, the recommendation is based on symptoms. If symptoms are mild and you can do the activities that you want to do, then your doctor may decide to watch the condition over time. If not, you may need a pacemaker.

If your blood pressure medication is causing bradycardia, your doctor may consider changing the drug. But if you must be on that specific medication, you may need a pacemaker as well.

Fortunately, bradycardia is generally not serious. As long as your doctor is aware of your slow heart rate and you get any treatment you need, you should still be able to do all of the activities you love to do. more  

View all 6 comments Below 6 comments
A big thank you more  
Very useful information. Thanks. more  
Very useful information particularly for the aged ones already feeling slower heart rate and wondering the causes. Thanks Mr Raja. more  
Thanks Raja Sahib for the detailed information. more  
Post a Comment

Related Posts

    • Saurav Ganguly suffered a Heart Attack

      3 major blood vessels were found to be blocked in an otherwise healthy individual. He suffered a blackout during Gym Exercises at his home He was taken in time to the hospital...

      By Dr. Neelam Nath
    • Secrets of Longevity

      Whales have heart rates @2/minute while in water and it's up by 4 while out of water,while hunting. Humans have heart rates between 60-80 and athletic people or others who believe in reg...

      By Dr. Neelam Nath
    • Healthy cholesterol

      Can we run our vehicle without good oil? Why do we get our vehicles serviced, get filter & oil changed after driving few thousands of Kilometers? Cholesterol is a type of fat found i...

      By Neelam Nath
    • Alkaline diet

      If you are in your 30s or know someone who is in their 30s, then it is important to understand that alkaline diet hams none and helps everyone without being a burden on the pocket. Dr Otto Warburg,...

      By Neelam Nath
    • Foods as blood thinners

      Foods As Blood Thinners Dr. Neelam Nath Bhatia Dr. Neelam Nath BhatiaGeneral Physician 9 September, 2019 Cardiac patients are given blood thinners so that bloo...

      By Neelam Nath
    • Chelation therapy

      is Chelation therapy advisable for reducing blocks

      By Swarnalatha Marjee
    • BP fluctuation during day

      How does blood pressure fluctuate during the day? Is it quite high before lunch. Experts please advise.

      By Sneha Goyal
    • Erroneously high BP measurement mistakes

      AHA lists 7 common mistakes leading to erroneously high BP measurement . 1 .Having a full bladder can add 10-15 points to your reading. 2 .Slouching, unsupported back or feet....

      By Sneha Goyal
    • Hypertension

      Hypertension is a systolic blood pressure equal to or greater than 140mm of Hg or diastolic pressure equal to or greater then 90 mm of hg. Features of Hypertension: 1. Headach...

      By Pritam Sharma
    • 101 year old cardiologist

      India's first lady Cardiologist, Dr. Padmawati Sivaramakrishna Iyer turned 101yrs on 20th June 2018. She is director of the National Heart Institute, Delhi and the founder president of the A...

      By Sneha Goyal
    • Good evening friends

      4 Nuts That Cut Your Heart Disease Risk. Recently, I set up an experiment in a grocery store. I placed four nut mixes on a shelf. Each was labeled differently. One promoted men’s h...

      By Dr.(Mrs.)Chandra Kanta Gosain
Enter your email and mobile number and we will send you the instructions

Note - The email can sometime gets delivered to the spam folder, so the instruction will be send to your mobile as well

All My Circles
Invite to
(Maximum 500 email ids allowed.)