Cardiology 101: Insights into Bradycardia

senior woman suffering from heartache at home

Ideally, the heart of an adult at rest should beat 72 times per second. But what if your heart beats at 40 beats per second? Would you be able to survive through it?

In Cardiology, the condition in which a heart beats slower than 60 beats per minute is termed Bradycardia. Pronounced as brae-dee-Kaa-dee-uh, it is defined as:

When your heart beats once, it circulates the oxygen that you inhale throughout your body with the help of blood. However, lower heartbeats mean lesser oxygen supply to the body. Therefore, Bradycardia can be a serious issue.

Many-a-times, a slower heart rate is considered normal in an otherwise healthy human being, specifically, when there are no associated symptoms or discomfort. Sometimes, it even goes unnoticed by the individual himself due to the absence of any sign of complication.

Symptoms of Bradycardia

According to Cardiology, a slower heart rate will not be able to provide the required amount of oxygen to your body. Hence, your brain or other organs might start giving you some signals of Bradycardia.

  • Fatigue
  • Chest pains
  • Panting
  • Weakness
  • Lower stamina
  • Palpitations
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Light-headedness
  • Fainting

When should you Visit a Doctor?

For athletes or young healthy people who exercise regularly, it is quite normal to have a heart rate going below 60 beats per minute and feel absolutely normal. This is a normal tendency of their bodies, and usually, a slower heart rate would go unnoticed in such individuals unless checked. Their bodies do not even show any symptoms of Bradycardia.

However, when your body gives any one or more of the above-mentioned symptoms, it is better to consult a doctor immediately. If you ignore these symptoms, your condition might worsen, leading to an even lower heart rate that might even harm your body irreversibly. If your heart rate drops to 30, you can faint due to less oxygen supply, suffer brain stroke, slip into a coma, or even die from congestive heart failure.

Therefore, whenever you have episodes of Bradycardia for a longer period, frequently, continuously, or associated with any of the symptoms, it is advisable to visit a Cardiology specialist at the earliest.

Causes of Bradycardia

Bradycardia can be a serious issue for people facing severe symptoms, along with a slower heart rate. For such people, doctors usually conduct a series of tests to understand the probable reason causing Bradycardia. Several potential causes have been listed below.

  • The most common cause of Bradycardia is the malfunctioning of the natural pacemaker. A pacemaker or a sinus node controls the pumping of heart chambers through electrical signals. When the normal functioning of this natural pacemaker is disturbed, the heart rate becomes either arrhythmic or slower.
  • As you age, it is normal to have a lower heart rate. However, if it is too low or causes discomfort, it might be because of some heart tissue damage caused by ageing. Heart disease or a heart attack can also damage heart tissues.
  • Atrio-ventricular blockages hinder proper communication between the top and bottom chambers of the heart. This can also cause the heart to beat slower than usual.
  • Infection in heart tissues.
  • Congenital heart defect or heart disorder from birth.
  • Imbalance of chemicals like potassium and calcium in the body.
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Medications like those for high blood pressure, psychosis, and heart arrhythmia.

Diagnosis and Treatment

A proper diagnosis of the cause of Bradycardia is the only way to lead a doctor to the right treatment. The doctor may ask you to conduct an ECG (electrocardiogram) to understand the electrical signals of your heart. Some blood tests might be required to check the hormonal and chemical imbalances in your body. A 24-hour monitor might also be required to measure your heart activity over this time.

After getting all of these tests done, your doctor would be able to analyze the root cause of your Bradycardia. Further, this would help him decide on the treatment. He might just change some of your medications if your current ones are causing the issue. Alternatively, if there are some imbalances of chemicals or thyroid in your blood, your doctor might prescribe drugs to cure them.

For some graver issues like those related to the pacemaker, your doctor might decide to replace your natural pacemaker with an artificial one through a small surgery.

In any case, it is important to note that usually, Bradycardia demands to visit a Cardiology specialist but, isn’t an emergency situation and allows ample time for the doctor and the patient to mutually decide for the course of treatment.