Bradycardia = too slow
A heart rate of less than 60 beats per minute (BPM) in adults is called bradycardia. What's too slow for you may depend on your age and physical condition.
- Physically active adults often have a resting heart rate slower than 60 BPM but it doesn't cause problems.
- Your heart rate may fall below 60 BPM during deep sleep.
- Elderly people are more prone to problems with a slow heart rate.
View an animation of bradycardia.
Causes of bradycardia
- Problems with the sinoatrial (SA) node, sometimes called the heart's natural pacemaker
- Problems in the conduction pathways of the heart (electrical impulses are not conducted from the atria to the ventricles)
- Metabolic problems such as hypothyroidism
- Damage to the heart from heart attack or heart disease
Symptoms of bradycardia
A heart rhythm that's too slow can cause insufficient blood flow to the brain with symptoms such as:
- Fainting or near-fainting spells
- In extreme cases, cardiac arrest may occur.
Complications of bradycardia
Severe, prolonged untreated bradycardia can cause:
- Heart failure
- Syncope (loss of consciousness; fainting)
- Angina pectoris (chest pain)
- High blood pressure
Treatment of the underlying medical cause
- Not usually needed except with prolonged or repeated symptoms
- Can usually be corrected with an artificial pacemaker to speed up the heart rhythm as needed
- Medication may be adjusted.
This content was last reviewed on 10/23/2014.