The heart rate of healthy adults should be between 60 to 80 beats per minute. If a person’s heartbeat is slower than that, the disorder is called bradycardia.
There are many reasons why a person’s heartbeat may run fast, or slow. For example, adults who regularly exercise will have a slower resting heartbeat. Additionally, seniors are typically prone to a slower heartbeat as aging causes the heart muscles to weaken. Although these reasons are harmless, bradycardia could also signify a more serious condition. If the heart cannot pump a sufficient amount of blood, symptoms and complications may arise.
Causes, symptoms and risk factors of bradycardia
Our heart is controlled by the body’s own natural pacemaker – this is referred to as the sinus node. The sinus node produces electrical pulses that create each heartbeat. Bradycardia occurs when electrical signals slow down or become blocked.
Other causes of bradycardia include:
- Heart tissue damage associated with aging
- Damage to the heart and heart tissues caused by heart attack or heart disease
- Congenital heart defect
- Complication of heart surgery
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Rheumatic fever
- Inflammatory disease
- Hemochromatosis (buildup of iron)
Symptoms to pay attention to in regards to bradycardia are:
- Near-fainting or fainting
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains
- Impaired cognitive ability.
There are a few factors that can increase a person’s risk to develop bradycardia. They include age, smoking, alcohol use, high blood pressure, and psychological stress or anxiety.
Treatment and prevention of bradycardia
Treatment of bradycardia depends on the root cause. For example if hypertension is the cause of bradycardia, the doctor may prescribe medications and create a plan for the patient to follow to lower their blood pressure.
A pacemaker may also be an option. A pacemaker is a device that replicates what your heart naturally does on its own. It creates the electrical signals needed to create a heartbeat.
Prevention of bradycardia consists of healthy lifestyle choices which include:
- Exercise and eat well
- Don’t smoke
- Limit alcohol
- Don’t abuse drugs
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Control underlying medical conditions
- Control stress
- Visit your doctor for regular check-ups.
If you already have a heart condition and your doctor has you on a plan, ensure you are taking medications properly as well as following any other suggestions the doctor may have laid out for you.
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