Bradycardia

What is Bradycardia

Bradycardia is a slower-than-normal heartbeat. A normal resting heart rate for an adult ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute. With bradycardia, the resting heart rate is less than 60 beats per minute.

Bradycardia can prevent enough oxygen from reaching certain areas of your body when you are active. It can be serious if it keeps enough oxygen from reaching your brain and other parts of your body. Bradycardia is not a problem for everyone. For some healthy adults, a slow resting heart rate is normal.

What are the causes?

This condition may be caused by:

  • A problem with the heart, including:
    • A problem with the heart’s electrical system, such as a heart block.
    • A problem with the heart’s natural pacemaker (sinus node).
    • Heart disease.
    • A heart attack.
    • Heart damage.
    • A heart infection.
    • A heart condition that is present at birth (congenital heart defect).
  • Certain medicines that treat heart conditions.
  • Certain conditions, such as hypothyroidism and obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Problems with the balance of chemicals and other substances, like potassium, in the blood.

What increases the risk?

This condition is more likely to develop in adults who:

  • Are age 65 or older.
  • Have high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol (hyperlipidemia), or diabetes.
  • Drink heavily, use tobacco or nicotine products, or use drugs.
  • Are stressed.

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Light-headedness.
  • Feeling faint or fainting.
  • Fatigue and weakness.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Chest pain (angina).
  • Drowsiness.
  • Confusion.
  • Dizziness.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition may be diagnosed based on:

  • Your symptoms.
  • Your medical history.
  • A physical exam.

During the exam, your health care provider will listen to your heartbeat and check your pulse. To confirm the diagnosis, your health care provider may order tests, such as:

  • Blood tests.
  • An electrocardiogram (ECG). This test records the heart’s electrical activity. The test can show how fast your heart is beating and whether the heartbeat is steady.
  • A test in which you wear a portable device (event recorderor Holter monitor) to record your heart’s electrical activity while you go about your day.
  • An exercise test.

How is this treated?

Treatment for this condition depends on the cause of the condition and how severe your symptoms are. Treatment may involve:

  • Treatment of the underlying condition.
  • Changing your medicines or how much medicine you take.
  • Having a small, battery-operated device called a pacemaker implanted under the skin. When bradycardia occurs, this device can be used to increase your heart rate and help your heart to beat in a regular rhythm.

Follow these instructions at home:

Lifestyle

  • Manage any health conditions that contribute to bradycardia as told by your health care provider.
  • Follow a heart-healthy diet. A nutrition specialist (dietitian) can help to educate you about healthy food options and changes.
  • Follow an exercise program that is approved by your health care provider.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Try to reduce or manage your stress, such as with yoga or meditation. If you need help reducing stress, ask your health care provider.
  • Do notuse use any products that contain nicotine or tobacco, such as cigarettes and e-cigarettes. If you need help quitting, ask your health care provider.
  • Do notuse illegal drugs.
  • Limit alcohol intake to no more than 1 drink per day for nonpregnant women and 2 drinks per day for men. One drink equals 12 oz of beer, 5 oz of wine, or 1½ oz of hard liquor.

General instructions

  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as directed by your health care provider. This is important.

How is this prevented?

In some cases, bradycardia may be prevented by:

  • Treating underlying medical problems.
  • Stopping behaviors or medicines that can trigger the condition.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • You feel light-headed or dizzy.
  • You almost faint.
  • You feel weak or are easily fatigued during physical activity.
  • You experience confusion or have memory problems.

Get help right away if:

  • You faint.
  • You have an irregular heartbeat (palpitations).
  • You have chest pain.
  • You have trouble breathing.
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