12/22/2009 - Questions and Answers

Is a Slow Heart Rate a Concern?

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Question

My heart rate is slow and other folk tell me this can be dangerous. I am a 71 year old and feel fine. Should I be concerned?

 

Answer

Your heart rate is the number of times that your heart beats in one minute A heart rate of less than 60 beats per minute is called bradycardia, taken from the Greek 'brady' (slow) and 'cardia' (heart). Facts that affect heart rate could include medication that you are taking which can raise or lower your heart rate or if you are very fit, your pulse rate is generally in the region of 40 ­ 60 beats per minute. Physically active people often have a resting heart rate slower than 60 beats per minute. For them, this isn't abnormally slow. An under active thyroid, caused by a deficiency of thyroid hormone can cause a slow heart rate, but this is usually only one of several symptoms experienced with a thyroid problem, and you say you feel fine.
 

Bradycardia doesn't usually require treatment unless there are prolonged or repeated symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, light headedness, fainting or near-fainting spells. These symptoms are usually due to insufficient blood flow to the brain. Dizziness and blackouts are caused by a fall in blood pressure due to the slow rate.Slow heart rates are common in elderly people and are often harmless but should be investigated, particularly if it is accompanied by dizzy spells or fainting. In this case, an ECG is necessary to help make a diagnosis. Elderly people though are more prone to problems with a slow heart rate. These symptoms can be treated and, in certain cases, can be corrected by implanting an electronic pacemaker under the skin to speed up the heart rhythm, when the heart rate becomes too slow.
 

If you feel fine with no untoward symptoms experienced and have regular medical check ups, your slow heart rate or bradycardia is probably only part of your aging and quite harmless. However, to give you total peace of mind, you would be best advised to talk this concern over with your own treating doctor, next time you are in consultation.
 

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Created on: 10/23/2006
Reviewed on: 12/22/2009

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