Bradycardia (Slow Heart Rate) - Topic Overview
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 take your pulse to diagnose bradycardia. Your doctor might also do a physical exam, ask questions about
your past health, and do an
electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG). An EKG measures the
electrical signals that control heart rhythm.
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.
You may need to use a portable (ambulatory) electrocardiogram. This
lightweight device is also called a Holter monitor or a cardiac event monitor.
You wear the monitor for a day or more, and it records your heart rhythm while
you go about your daily routine.
You may also have blood tests to
find out if another problem is causing your slow heart rate.
How is it treated?
How bradycardia is treated
depends on what is causing it. Treatment also depends on the symptoms. If
bradycardia doesn't cause symptoms, it usually isn't treated.
- If damage to the heart's electrical system
causes your heart to beat too slowly, you will probably need to have a
pacemaker. A pacemaker is a device placed under your
skin that helps correct the slow heart rate. People older than 65 are most
likely to have a type of bradycardia that requires a pacemaker.
another medical problem, such as hypothyroidism or an electrolyte imbalance, is
causing a slow heart rate, treating that problem may cure the bradycardia.
- If a medicine is causing your heart to beat too slowly, your
doctor may adjust the dose or prescribe a different medicine. If you cannot
stop taking that medicine, you may need a pacemaker.
The goal of treatment is to raise your heart rate so your
body gets the blood it needs. If severe bradycardia isn't treated, it can lead
to serious problems. These may include fainting and injuries from fainting, as
seizures or even death.