What is bradycardia arrhythmia

Bradycardia arrhythmia, also known as bradycardia, is an abnormally slow heart rate of less than 60 beats per minute. Slow heart rates can be considered normal in highly athletic, healthy people.

If symptomatic bradycardia is left untreated, it can lead to fainting, seizures or even death.

Common related conditions
Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) Atrial Flutter Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome

Causes of bradycardia arrhythmia

Bradycardia can be caused by a variety of conditions including:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart attack
  • Endocarditis or myocarditis
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Electrolyte imbalance

Bradycardia can also be caused by medications that are used to treat heart disease.

Risk factors for bradycardia arrhythmia

Bradycardia occurs more frequently in older adults who have damaged heart tissue. Conditions that put you at an increased risk for heart disease also increase your risk of developing bradycardia.

Conditions include:

Illicit drug use and smoking can also put you at high risk of developing bradycardia.

Symptoms of bradycardia arrhythmia

Some people do not feel any symptoms of bradycardia.

If you do experience symptoms, they may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired
  • Fainting
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Chest pain

Diagnosis of bradycardia arrhythmia

Bradycardia can be diagnosed by your primary care doctor in a physical exam. Your doctor will take your pulse and ask questions about your medical history or activity level.

In some cases, your doctor may order more advanced cardiac tests including:

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) – measures electrical impulses of the heart
  • Holter monitor (cardiac event monitor) – records your electrical rhythm during your daily routine
  • Blood tests – can show other underlying conditions 
  • Exercise stress test – diagnostic test that evaluates the heart under stress (while exercising), typically while running on a treadmill

Treatment for bradycardia arrhythmia

If you are not experiencing symptoms of bradycardia, you are not typically treated. If you are experiencing symptoms, treatment will vary based upon what is causing the condition. Your doctor will typically start by diagnosing what might be causing the slow heart rate, such as hypothyroidism.

If the medication you are taking for an underlying condition is causing your slow heart rate, your doctor may discuss alternative medication choices.

A cardiac pacemaker, a device implanted under the skin, can help correct abnormally slow heart rate. Pacemakers are more commonly used in patients over 65 years old.

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