When a person is diagnosed with having bradycardia it means that they have a heart arrhythmia and that their heart beats at a rate slower then 60 beats per minute. It is caused by a disruption of the normal electrical impulses that control the rate at which the heart pumps blood through the circulatory system. Anyone can develop this condition and it does not depend on age. The risk for it increases depending on the condition of the heart, blood chemistry imbalances, endocrine abnormalities or having had a heart attack.
The normal heart rate for a normal healthy man is from 40-100 beats per minute. The average heart rate for most adults is around 72 beats per minute. A normal infant heart rate is about 120 beats per minute. A slow heart beat of 60 beats per minute can be diagnosed as bradycardia. A fast heart beat is called tachycardia. Both conditions mean there is an abnormal heart rate. When a person has bradycardia they will also have dizzy spells, fainting, extreme fatigue upon exertion and a shortness of breath.
However, not all slow heart beats are considered to be abnormal or bradycardia. Someone having a heart beat as slow as 50 beats per minute is considered normal for the individual who is very healthy, physically active and an athlete. A slow heart beat in the average non athletic person is what is abnormal.
A bradycardia cardiac arrhythmia is caused by a problem in the sinus node. Toxic levels of certain narcotics and other drugs can cause bradycardia to occur. This condition is also a common side effect of certain prescription drugs like propranolol (Inderal), atenolol (Tenormin), metoprolol (Toprol-XL), sotalol (Betapace), verapamil (Calan, Isoptin, Verelan) and diltiazem (Cardizem, Dilacor-XR).
Things that can affect or disrupt the normal electrical impulses in your heart include such conditions as the degeneration of heart tissue due to aging and damage done to the heart during a heart attack or heart diseases. High blood pressure may also affect the normal electrical impulses of the heart. Infants who are born with congenital heart defects may also have bradycarida.
Diet plays an important role in regards to the electrical impulses of the heart. Bradycardia may develop when electrolytes become imbalanced because of poor eating habits. Sleep apnea may also disrupt the heart rate and slow it down. Bradycardia can also develop with inflammatory diseases like rheumatic fever or lupus. Having too high of a build up of iron in the organs can also lead to bradycardia. Certain medications for high blood pressure or psychosis may also disrupt the normal heart rate and cause bradycardia.
Diagnostic testing must be done to determine the exact cause of bradycardia. The cause may be a sinus node dysfunction or a blockage to the A-V node of the heart. The treatment for extreme cases can involve implanting a pacemaker of some sort to regulate the heart beat. Some cases of bradycardia may not need treatment at all. However, only a doctor can make that determination after thorough testing. Some cases of bradycardia are not dangerous as in the healthy athletic. However, if you are having trouble with symptoms of dizziness, fainting and a slow heart rate you should see your doctor for a check up. The doctor will do an EKG to test for it. Other testing may be done to check for illnesses that may be causing it.
There are some medicines that can be taken to control bradycardia. Treatment will depend on the cause. If the condition is caused by a sinus-node dysfunction a pacemaker may be necessary. When the bradycardia is caused by a severe A-V node block the person is usually treated by implanting a permanent special dual chambered pacemaker.
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