Bradycardia means a person has slow heart rate. A normal individual has an average heart rate of 60 to 100 beats per minute during rest. If your heart beats slower than this, you are either physically fit or have a potential heart problem. Most healthy people and athletes do not have a heart that beats 60 times per minute but this is just normal and they do not need to do anything about it. However, for some, very slow heart rate indicates that their heart do not function well and worse is it does not pump enough oxygen-rich blood for the body. The human heart is equipped with components called the electrical system. It is composed of the four chambers as well as the veins, arteries, and heart muscles important for blood pumping. Bradycardia may show unsatisfactory performance of the electrical system of the heart. It can also be a sign of a problem in the pacemaker of the heart which maintains normal and rhythmic electrical signals for blood pumping from heart to the rest of the body parts. Just like any other bodily processes, an interruption to this blood pumping process will result to symptoms and even death.
What are the symptoms?
These symptoms may be all felt or are selectively felt by a person who has bradycardia. It is important to see the doctor as soon as you feel these symptoms. Since old people are usually the target of this disease, old people do not pay much attention to it because they thought the symptoms are just brought by aging. You can simply check your pulse to have an idea if these symptoms are associated to a cardiac problem.
Passing out or near-fainting (syncope)
Shortness of breath
Short term memory and disorientation
Immediate exhaustion after physical activity
Drop of blood pressure
What are the sources of bradycardia?
Many circumstances can contribute to the failure of the heart to maintain its normal pumping action. These are
Damage of heart tissues due to aging, previous heart attack, heart disease, and heart surgery
Conditions like hypertension, hypothyroidism, myocarditis, rheumatic fever, hemochromatosis, obstructive sleep apnea, and congenital heart defect
Medicines taken for high blood pressure, psychosis and heart rhythm disorders
Disproportion of the electrolytes needed for conducting electrical impulses
Sinus node problems. A sinus node can lead to bradycardia if it doesn't release electrical impulses at a normal rate, recessed or failed to discharge at a normal rate, and if it releases electrical impulses but is blocked before it can cause contraction.
Heart block or atrioventricular block. Slow heart rate happen when the electrical impulses delivered through the atria are blocked before they reach the ventricles.
Who are at risk?
High blood pressure
Drug abuse and smoking regularly
What happens during diagnosis and treatment?
These are the different procedures and lab tests that will confirm bardycardia:
Electrocardiogram. This tracks the person's heart rhythm. There are different ECG devices which has different uses:
Holter monitor. It records the heart activity in the 24 hour duration. It can be worn as belt or shoulder strap and some are placed on the pocket. This enables doctor to have a full view of your heart's rhythm.
Cardiac event monitor. This handy device is given to patients. They will need to press it whenever they are having an 'event', meaning they are experiencing symptoms.
Tilt table test. An ECG is done along this test. This gives information about the relationship of your heart rhythm to your possibility of fainting.
An ECG is done during the peak of an exercise to let doctors know if a physical activity increases your heart rate.
Blood tests that will detect hypothyroidism and electrolyte imbalance.
A pacemaker will correct your slow heart rate. This is recommended for very old individuals and those who developed bradycardia because of damage in heart's electrical system.
If laboratory tests show you have, infection, hypothyroidism or electrolyte imbalance, curing these conditions will most likely cure bradycardia.
Doctors may recommend alternative medicines for your other heart disease to stop your bradycardia. If changing the dose or having an alternative medicine doesn't work, a pacemaker will be advised.