Slow Heart Rate: What You Need to Know

As a person gets older, they may experience a decline in their heart rate. Referred to as bradycardia, a slower-than-normal heart rate is not an uncommon situation. It is, however, one that your doctor will want to monitor and for which treatment may become necessary.

At rest, everyone’s heart rate slows down. However, the rate of a healthy heartbeat ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute. When the rate of beating is continually below that range, a person may begin to experience symptoms. Mild to moderate bradycardia may cause lightheadedness and shortness of breath and possibly even chest pain. If bradycardia becomes severe, a person’s risk of cardiac arrest may increase.

Detecting Bradycardia

Certain symptoms may prompt a visit with your doctor. However, if you have no symptoms, you may not realize that there is a need for screening. One of the most common ways to observe a potential problem with heart rate is to notice how you feel when walking or climbing stairs. A slow heart rate could cause persistent and excessive fatigue. Walking upstairs or even short distances could lead to shortness of breath and lightheadedness. In severe cases, mild physical exertion could cause fainting.

If symptoms suggest bradycardia or a routine health exam identifies a slow heart rate, further testing is necessary to understand the full extent of heart health and potential reasons for a slowed heart rate. After an electrocardiogram is performed to observe the heartbeat, additional tests such as a Holter monitor may be recommended. This test observes the heart rate for a period of 24 hours or more. An event recorder may also be prescribed for a few weeks to capture symptoms as they occur. Most tests to diagnose or monitor bradycardia or non-invasive and performed on an outpatient basis.

Bradycardia is generally not a serious health threat. It is a condition that does need to be monitored, though, especially if symptoms worsen. In some cases, treatment with a pacemaker is advisable.

The staff at Premier Cardiology Consultants prioritizes prompt and personalized care for each of our patients. To schedule a visit at our Forest Hills, Richmond Hill, or Lake Success office, call 516-437-5600.

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