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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Slow Heartbeat
      Category : Health Centers > Heart Diseases

Slow Heartbeat

Alternate Names : Bradycardia

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

A slow heartbeat is called bradycardia and is defined as a heart rate that is slower than healthy levels. In most adults, the heart beats at least 60 times per minute. Faster, age-related heart rates are considered healthy in children.

What is going on in the body?

When a person is at rest, the heart normally beats at a rate that is within a fairly narrow range. This range is usually 60 to 100 beats per minute in adults and slightly faster in children. With certain conditions, however, the heart rate may decrease below a healthy range. When the heart beats lower than the healthy range, the body may not get all the blood it needs to work correctly. And this can affect a person's overall health and energy levels.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

There are many possible causes of a slow heartbeat, including:

  • arrhythmias, which are irregular heartbeats caused by problems such as heart attacks and salt imbalances
  • certain medicines, such as atenolol and diltiazem, commonly used to treat high blood pressure, or digoxin, commonly used to treat congestive heart failure
  • heroin overdose
  • hypothyroidism, or a low level of thyroid hormone in the body
  • serious head injuries or brain damage, which can lead to a condition called increased intracranial pressure
  • shock, a serious condition in which there is poor blood circulation. If this is left untreated, it can result in death
  • Regular exercise can also result in a slow heartbeat. This happens because the exercise actually strengthens the heart to the point where it can beat less often and still perform its job effectively. In this case, the slow heartbeat is nothing to be concerned about.

    Other causes are also possible. Sometimes no cause can be found.


    Next section


    Slow Heartbeat: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Adam Brochert, MD
    Reviewer: Melissa Sanders, PharmD
    Date Reviewed: 10/03/01

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