A low heart rate (bradycardia) occurs frequently in older adults. It’s not always a problem, but it can require treatment in some cases. As we age, we expect our bodies to slow down, but not our hearts. Medical professionals consider a heart rate below 60 beats per minute as low. A normal range is from 60 to 100 beats-per-minute, if you have bradycardia you’ll have a sustained heart rate below 60.
Some of the common causes for bradycardia is a malfunction in the heart’s natural pacemaker, it controls how quickly the top and bottom heart chambers pump blood through the body. Another cause is atrioventricular block, where the top and bottom chambers don’t work well together and the heart rate drops. The most common risk factor for developing bradycardia though is age. The condition is most common among both men and women age 65 and over. Other health conditions can prompt bradycardia too- inflammation of the heart muscle, electrolyte imbalance, heart attacks due to CAD, diabetes, or too much potassium in the blood, to name a few.
For most young individuals and people who exercise regularly, a below-60 heart rate is normal and healthy. It’s possible to have a slow heart rate and experience no symptoms, however, it can sometimes lead to more serious problems. Don’t ignore the following: weakness/chest pains, heart flutters, low stamina/energy, and dizziness. If your heart rate drops into the 30s, you might not get enough oxygen to your brain. Fainting, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath can occur.
If you are concerned you may have bradycardia you should see your physician, a physical exam will be done and you may be required to wear a monitor to see how your heart is functioning. If your doctor decides you need treatment, they will try to rule out meds or other pre-existing conditions first. If not, you will need to have a pacemaker placed through a fairly easy surgical procedure to help your heart maintain an appropriate rate.
Click on the link below for more information on this and other heart conditions.