Bradycardia is having an abnormally slow heart rate of around less than 60 beats per minute, or bpm (a normal heart rate is between 60 and 100 bpm). Bradycardia may affect the heart’s ability to transport enough blood to the rest of the body.
Symptoms of bradycardia may include dizziness, fatigue, chest pains, and memory problems; however, some people with bradycardia do not display symptoms and function normally. This is common in healthy trained athletes, as their hearts are more efficient at pumping blood to the body. When bradycardia is a health problem, though, it can be caused by heart tissue damage from aging or heart attack, a congenital heart defect, heart surgery complications, heart tissue infection, underactive thyroid, sleep apnea, an inflammatory disease (i.e. lupus, rheumatic fever), or some medications, including some for other heart disorders, high blood pressure, or psychosis.
Those who have high blood pressure, smoke, consume large amounts of alcohol, have extreme stress or anxiety, or recreationally use drugs are at risk for bradycardia. If you think you are at risk for bradycardia, the most effective way to prevent it is to participate in regular exercise, consume a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, avoid smoking and recreational drugs, drink in moderation, and manage stress.
Bradycardia is diagnosed through a physical exam and analysis of past health concerns. Doctors also may use an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) to evaluate the heart rhythm. The doctor may also give a portable EKG to measure heart rhythm over time. The treatment of bradycardia depends on its cause, but examples include the use of a pacemaker or a change in medication.
If you or a family member has been diagnosed with bradycardia, speak with your doctor about the most current treatment options. Support groups may also be available for further resources and information.
Description Last Updated: Aug 20, 2018