What is bradycardia?
Having bradycardia (say
"bray-dee-KAR-dee-uh") means that your heart beats very slowly. For most people, a
heart rate of 60 to 100 beats a minute while at rest is considered normal. If
your heart beats less than 60 times a minute, it is slower than normal.
A slow heart rate can be normal and healthy. Or it could be a sign of a problem with the heart?s electrical system .
For some people, a slow heart rate does not cause any problems. It can be a sign of being very fit. Healthy young adults and athletes often have heart
rates of less than 60 beats a minute.
In other people, bradycardia
is a sign of a problem with the
heart?s electrical system. It means that the heart's natural pacemaker is not
working right or that the electrical pathways of the heart are disrupted. In
severe forms of bradycardia, the heart beats so slowly that it does not pump
enough blood to meet the body's needs. This can cause symptoms and can be life-threatening.
Men and women age 65 and older are most likely to develop a
slow heart rate that needs treatment. As a person
ages, the electrical system of the heart often does not function normally.
What causes bradycardia?
Bradycardia can be caused
What are the symptoms?
A very slow heart rate may
cause you to:
- Feel dizzy or lightheaded.
short of breath and find it harder to exercise.
- Have chest pain or a feeling that your heart is pounding or
- Feel confused or have trouble
- Faint, if a slow heart rate causes a drop in blood
Some people don't have symptoms, or their symptoms are so
mild that they think they are just part of getting older.
find out how fast your heart is beating by
taking your pulse . If your heartbeat is slow or uneven, talk to your
How is bradycardia diagnosed?
Your doctor may be
able to diagnose bradycardia by doing a physical exam, asking questions about
your past health, and doing an
electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG). An EKG measures the
electrical signals that control heart rhythm.
But bradycardia often comes and goes, so a standard
EKG done in the doctor?s office may not find it. An EKG can identify
bradycardia only if you are actually having it during the test.