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Bradycardia: What are the Underlying Causes and Treatments?

Written by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Updated Dec 23, 2022

    Bradycardia: What are the Underlying Causes and Treatments?

    When is a slow heart rate (bradycardia) normal or abnormal? In some cases, a slow heartbeat per minute is a normal occurrence. However, if the heartbeat is unusually slow, this could signal deeper issues. Read on to learn more about different causes, symptoms, possible bradycardia treatment and prevention tips.

    What is bradycardia?

    The typical heart rate of an adult is 60 to 100 beats per minute. When it lowers to less than 60, while conscious and at rest, it can be deemed abnormal. 

    For athletic people or those who are physically active, bradycardia is a typical occurrence. Otherwise, there could be underlying health issues like heart problems.

    The elderly usually experience abnormal slow heartbeats per minute. Therefore, bradycardia treatment may be necessary, especially if it is chronic, as this might lead to more complicated health problems.


    In general, bradycardia happens when the part of the heart fails to control the chambers that pump blood through the entire body. 

    As mentioned earlier, bradycardia is normal and healthy for people who are extremely fit. For some people who are not, the following are the possible causes of failure in controlling the chambers and abnormally slow heart rate:

  • Irregular heartbeat due to heart tissue damage along with aging or heart tissue infection.
  • Complications from heart surgery or heart abnormalities/complications at birth.
  • Sleep apnea or disrupted breathing while asleep.
  • Side effects and heart response from medications for heart rhythm and high blood pressure.
  • Rheumatic fever and lupus. Some of the inflammatory diseases that can cause bradycardia.
  • Low secretion of thyroid glands.
  • Symptoms

    Bradycardia treatment is immediately necessary when symptoms manifest. These symptoms occur because when the heart abnormally beats slower than 60, the other organs may get deprived of oxygen and blood circulation.

    See a doctor when the following happens:

    • Fatigue, exhaustion, fainting, or lack of energy.
    • Dizziness, shortness of breath, and chest pains.
    • Memory problems, such as disorientation/confusion.
    • Rapid pulse or palpitations. 

    Risk Factors

    Older people usually experience bradycardia, but people of any age, race, and gender could have an attack due to the following risk factors:

    • Heavy alcohol intake
    • High blood pressure
    • Usage of recreational drugs
    • Stress
    • Anxiety

    Bradycardia treatment is avoidable if lifestyle changes will happen. A healthy lifestyle can decrease the risk of having bradycardia for people who are not physically fit and active.


    If left untreated, the patient may experience repeated fainting, heart failure, and sudden death from sudden cardiac arrest.

    If symptoms occur, consult a doctor immediately to prevent further complications and general health problems.

    bradycardia treatment

    How is it diagnosed?

    For an accurate diagnosis and proper bradycardia treatment, the following tests may be performed.

    • Recording your heart’s activity using a Holter monitor, worn by using a belt or strap near to your chest. It lasts over 24 to 48 hours.
    • Event recorder is also one of the devices that will record your heart’s activity when symptoms occur. 
    • Laboratory tests, such as blood tests and tilt table tests, are part of the diagnosis process to identify possible underlying causes. For exercise tests, it is used for observing the heart’s activity during different types of activities.

    Bradycardia Treatment

    Bradycardia treatment is done on a case-to-case basis. With people who are physically fit and active, treatment may not be needed.

    However, people who have possible underlying causes should undergo diagnostic tests and treatment. In that case, the issues causing bradycardia will be the focus of the treatments.

    Some types of bradycardia treatment may include medication adjustments because other drug medications cause blockage in the heart, slowing the heart rate.

    In severe cases, surgery is suggested to implant a pacemaker which will regulate the heart rate back to normal. An option for surgery is only available when the other treatments are unsuccessful.


    Eliminate the risk factors that may lead to bradycardia and health problems by following these simple prevention tips:

    • Maintain a healthy weight by a proper, well-balanced diet and by exercising regularly.
    • If you have high blood pressure, make sure to control it by taking prescribed medications.
    • Do not smoke or use recreational drugs. 
    • Avoid heavy intake of alcoholic beverages.
    • Come up with healthy coping techniques that will relieve stress and pressure.
    • Undergo a regular physical examination and report unusual symptoms to your doctor.

    Key Takeaway

    Bradycardia seems to be a typical occurrence, but only when asleep and with people who are regularly working out. It is necessary to be aware of the symptoms and your body to determine what to report to your doctor if bradycardia attacks.

    Furthermore, risk factors are avoidable by following the ways of prevention. A healthy lifestyle leads to the prevention of unfortunate events, health problems, and bradycardia treatment.



    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Written by

    Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


    Updated Dec 23, 2022

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