Trained athletes have a significantly low pulse rate and it is considered as a sign of a healthy heart. But, if a common man has a low pulse, then it is considered as a disorder; which if neglected, can lead to serious conditions. Why is it so? To find answer to this question, you need to know about 'functioning of heart'.
The rate at which your heart beats in one minute is known as pulse rate or heart rate. Whenever you visit a clinic, the doctor first checks your pulse rate, by gently pressing his fingers against your wrist or neck. Since normal pulse rate is measured while resting, it is also known as resting pulse rate. High pulse rate or tachycardia is a telltale sign of deteriorating heart health. Very low pulse rate can also be a sign of weak heart. Having lower than normal pulse rate is known as bradycardia. It sometimes indicates underlying health problems.
What Does Low Pulse Rate Mean
Pulse rate measured in the wrist is known as 'radial pulse'. You can feel the beat of your heart at the neck, the groin, at the top of the feet and in the wrist. When the heart contracts, blood is pumped into the arteries. You can feel the regular expansion and contraction of an artery, as the blood is pumped by the heart. You can thus measure how many times your heart beats per ten seconds. This measurement multiplied by six gives you the pulse rate or heart rate per minute. For example, if you notice 11 beats in 10 seconds, then 11 X 6 = 66 beats per minute (bpm) is your resting pulse rate.
Pulse rate between 60-100 bpm is considered as normal pulse rate. Pulse rate helps assess the health of your heart. High pulse rate conveys the message that your heart is beating faster than normal. High pulse rate at rest indicates that your heart has to work harder to pump blood into the arteries. On the contrary, low pulse rate (within the normal range) usually suggests that the heart is absolutely healthy. A healthy heart works slowly; because it can pump blood into the arteries effortlessly. But, if along with low pulse, you notice fatigue, weakness and dizziness, then it is certainly a cause for concern. Decreased pulse rate accompanied by such warning signs can be life-threatening, if neglected.
Pulse Rate Chart
|Categories||Resting Pulse Rate|
|Babies to age 1||100 - 160|
|Children aged 1 to 10||60 - 140|
|Children aged 10+ and adults||60 - 100|
|Well-conditioned athletes||40 - 60|
What are the Causes of Low Pulse Rate
A pulse rate less than 60 bpm is known as a low pulse rate or low heart rate. There exist several causes of low heart rate; because the pulse rate depends upon the health of the heart muscle, arteries, flow of hormones, functioning of various parts of the heart, functioning of various glands in the body, process of aging, overall health of the person, etc. Most common causes of lower pulse rate are listed below.
- Athletes and fitness freaks usually have an amazingly slow heart rate (40-60 bpm). They have a perfectly conditioned heart, as they regularly perform intensive exercises. With few contractions, the heart is able to pump the required quantity of blood.
- Reduced body temperature (hypothermia) can lower your pulse rate. Excessive exposure to cold weather, alcohol abuse, chronic medical conditions, very low blood glucose levels, etc. can lead to low body temperature. Weak newborn babies or old adults may have low body temperature.
- Use of certain medicines like beta blockers, calcium channel blockers or digoxin can affect your pulse rate. Excessive consumption of sedatives and tranquilizers can affect the heart rate seriously. One may experience decreased pulse rate as a side effect of medication.
- Various heart diseases like endocarditis, myocarditis or coronary diseases can affect the function of the heart, causing lower than normal pulse rate. Problem in heart's electrical system can result in slow beating of the heart. Autoimmune diseases, sleep apnea, neurological disorders, inflammatory diseases, chronic infections, prolonged bed-rest, dysfunction of the pacemaker of the heart, complications from heart surgery can lower the pulse rate.
- Hypothyroidism (under-active thyroid causing low thyroid levels) and electrolyte imbalances (vitamins and minerals deficiency), for example, accumulation of iron in the organs or too much potassium in the blood, are some of the other common low pulse causes.
- 'Aging' is one of the natural low pulse rate causes. Aging results in deterioration of heart tissues and affects the capacity of the heart to pump blood. So, the heart of the aged people may beat relatively slowly.
- Newborn infants born with certain disorders or premature babies may have low heart rate.
- Drug abuse or alcohol abuse can affect the heart rate of an individual.
A person may not notice any signs of low pulse rate, if the drop in the pulse rate is minor. The signs and symptoms are usually noticed when the pulse rate drops below 50 bpm. You should not worry about low pulse rate causes; if you are not feeling dizzy or tired. Decreased pulse rate accompanied by breathing difficulty, drop in blood pressure level, chest pain and/or fainting spells needs prompt medical attention. Otherwise, it means that your heart is perfectly healthy and efficient. Performing cardiovascular exercises like jogging, swimming, jump rope, etc., regularly; or keeping yourself engaged in sports like badminton, football, tennis, track or soccer can help strengthen your heart muscle.