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Slow Heart Rate

Slow Heart Rate

Having a slow heart rate or bradycardia means that your heart beats very slowly. Read on to know more about this heart disorder, along with the causes, symptoms and treatment options...
Marlene Alphonse
Last Updated: Feb 28, 2018
The human heart is a very vital organ in the body. For a normal person, the average heart rate is 72 times per minute. The medical term referring to a heart rate that is below the normal range is arrhythmia. When the heart beats slower than 60, a minute, then it can be bradycardia (also known as bradyarrhythmia) or slow heart rate. Slowing down means that the heart's natural pacemaker is not functioning properly and the arteries are disrupted. In severe cases, the heart beats so slowly that it does not pump the required amount of blood in the body, making this a life-threatening condition.
Causes of Bradychardia
As mentioned earlier, bradycardia is a condition where the heart beats lower than the healthy heart rate. There are several reasons why a person may experience a change in the way his heart beats. Mentioned below are some of the causative factors for this health condition.
  • Changes in the heart as age advances.
  • Conditions like having hypothyroidism (a low-level of the thyroid hormone) or an electrolyte imbalance (having too much potassium in the blood) can slow down the electrical impulses in the heart's electrical system, thereby causing the heart to beat more slowly.
  • Overdose of medications for treating high blood pressure or heart problems.
  • Diseases like heart attacks, coronary artery disease, and infections like myocarditis and endocarditis can damage the heart's electrical system.
  • Certain diseases like Lyme disease, caused by the bite of ticks, can also be a cause for slow pulse rate of the heart.
  • Sarcoidosis, a disease, causing inflammation and scar tissues throughout the body especially in the lungs, lymph nodes, eyes, skin, etc. is another cause for noticing reduced heart rate.
Symptoms
Symptoms of slowness of the heartbeat usually occurs when the heart fails to pump enough blood to meet the body's requirements. This often happens when the heart rate remains slow for a long period of time. Some people with decelerating heartbeats do not show any symptoms. Given below is a list of indications which help identify the difference in the way heartbeats sound
  • Angina or Chest pain - Chest pain usually occurs when insufficient blood flows to the heart muscle. This is a result of narrowed blood vessels caused due to atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries.
  • Palpitations - Heart palpitation is a condition where the heart beats irregularly. It can be caused due to fatigue, stress, or overuse of caffeine or alcohol.
  • Fainting or Syncope - A person can faint when his blood pressure drops to a very low-level and enough blood does not reach the brain. The reduction in blood usually happens spontaneously, causing symptoms to appear suddenly.
  • Dizziness or Feeling Light-headed - Feeling light-headed and dizzy can make a person feel that he is about to faint anytime and gets a sensation of dizziness. It can be due to improper functioning of the nervous system, as there is insufficient blood in the body.
  • Fatigue or Tiredness - A person suffering from this heart disorder gets tired very quickly and also experiences severe fatigue. He also experiences shortness of breath, sweats profusely (even when the climate is cool) and finds it harder to do heavy exercises.
  • Confusion or Difficulty in Concentrating - A person having reduced heartbeats usually has difficulty in concentrating and is restless and confused in whatever he does.
Treatment
In medical terms, bradycardia is a condition, where the resting heart rate drops below 60. This can give rise to several health complications, which can prove to be life-threatening and even fatal in some instances. Hence to avoid this, it is essential to get treated promptly. Before treating, the physician may conduct a few diagnostic tests like an ultrasound, or an MRI to assess the exact condition of the heart. Once all this is done, he will proceed towards treatment. There are three stages of treatment for this heart condition
  • Initial Treatment - After a heart attack, when the heart rate slows down suddenly, medicines are given intravenously for a short period in order to increase the rate of heartbeats. A temporary pacemaker can also be fitted. If this heart condition is caused due to hypothyroidism, then the doctor can prescribe medications to alter the condition, thus stabilizing the heart.
  • Ongoing Treatment - People older than 65, usually require a permanent pacemaker. If reduced heart rate is caused by medications like beta-blockers, digoxin, anti-arrhythmics, etc. then the doctor may adjust or change your medication or dosage.
  • Treatment if Condition Worsens - People experiencing slower heartbeats than normal alternating with a rapid, irregular heart rate are under the risk of a stroke. In such cases, a permanent pacemaker is used with anticoagulant medications.
By staying healthy and eating a heart-healthy diet that is low in cholesterol, reducing stress, restricting alcohol, following a strict exercise regimen can help lower the risk of heart diseases. Take care!
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