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What is bradycardia?
Bradycardia is a slow heart rate of fewer than 60 beats per minute. A slow heart rate is normal for some people, such as athletes, and needs no treatment. Bradycardia may also be caused by health conditions that do need treatment.
What causes bradycardia?
- Heart damage caused by a heart attack or heart disease
- Problems with your heart node (tissue that generates electrical signals)
- Conditions that affect the way electrical signals travel through your heart and cause your heart to beat
- Certain infections, such as Lyme disease
- Hypothermia (low body temperature), or health problems that cause low oxygen levels
- Low thyroid hormone levels, low blood sugar levels, or electrolyte balance problems
- Certain medicines, such as heart medicines
What other signs and symptoms may occur with bradycardia?
You may have no other signs or symptoms, or you may have any of the following:
- Tiredness and shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Cool and pale or bluish skin
How is bradycardia diagnosed?
Your caregiver will ask about your symptoms and when they started. He will ask what triggers your symptoms and if they get worse with exercise. He may ask if you have a heart condition or take any medicines. You may also need any of the following:
- Blood tests may be done to see if you have any heart damage. They may also be used to find the cause of your bradycardia.
- An EKG records the electrical activity of your heart. It may be used to check for heart damage from a heart attack or problems with the way electrical signals travel through your heart.
- A heart monitor will be used to track your heart rate and rhythm if you are in the hospital. You may also need to wear it for several days at home.
How is bradycardia treated?
You may not need any treatment. Bradycardia is usually treated if it causes symptoms, such as dizziness or fainting. You may need any of the following:
- Heart medicines may be given to increase your heart rate. These medicines are given through an IV.
- A temporary pacemaker is a short-term treatment in the hospital. The pacemaker is applied to your skin with sticky pads or placed into a vein in your neck or chest. A small pacing device helps keep your heartbeat stable.
- A permanent pacemaker is implanted under the skin of your chest or abdomen during surgery. A tiny battery creates electrical impulses that keep your heart rate regular.
What are the risks of bradycardia?
You may faint when your heart rate gets too low. You may develop seizures, high blood pressure, chest pain, or heart failure. Your heart may stop beating.
Where can I find more information?
- American Heart Association
7272 Greenville Avenue
Dallas , TX 75231-4596
Phone: 1- 800 - 242-8721
Web Address: http://www.heart.org
When should I contact my caregiver?
Contact your caregiver if:
- You are more tired than usual, even with treatment.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
When should I seek immediate care?
Seek care immediately or call 911 if:
- You feel lightheaded or faint.
- You have new or worsening dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain, or confusion.
- Your pulse rate is lower than your caregiver says it should be, even with treatment.
Care AgreementYou have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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