What causes slow heart rate? 13 possible conditions

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The heart rate is the number of beats (rhythmic contractions) per minute of the heart (the muscular organ in the center of the chest that maintains circulation of the blood) and is a measure of cardiac activity. A slow heart rate is slower than 50 beats per minute for an adult or child at rest.

Alternative Names

Bradycardia, heart rate decreased, heartbeats decreased, low heart rate, decreased heart rate, pulse slow, pulse rate decreased, slow heart rate, slow heartbeat, slow pulse.


The heart rate, usually measured by checking the arterial pulse or sounds counting the times of the heart beat, is considered one of the vital signs. Vital signs – body temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure provide information about the state of health of a person and, if abnormal, offer clues to problems. The heart rate is the number of time the heart beats per minute and is usually measured by holding a finger to the radial artery at the wrist. Other places it can be measured are at the neck (carotid artery), the groin (femoral artery), and the feet (dorsalis pedis and posterior tibial arteries).

  • The resting adult heart rate is normally 60-100 beats per minute.
  • Athletes or people on certain medications may have a lower resting normal rate.
  • The normal heart rate for children aged 1-8 years is 80-100 beats per minute
  • The normal heart rate for infants age 1 to 12 months is 100 to 120 beats per minute
  • The normal heart rate for newborns (under one month old) is 120 to 160 beats per minute

The heart rate should be strong and regular with out any missed beats. If it is beating slower than the normal rate, it might indicate a medical problem. Fainting, dizziness, loss of consciousness, weakness and fatigue can accompany slow heart rate.

Associated Diagnoses

  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Autonomic dysreflexia
  • Autonomic neuropathy
  • Congestive cardiomyopathy
  • Heart attack
  • High potassium
  • Intracerebral hemorrhage
  • Marine animal stings or bites
  • Side effects of medications
  • Stroke
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage
  • Sick sinus syndrome
  • Hypothermia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • AV node damage

Diagnosis and Treatments

A thorough medical evaluation is necessary for slow heart rate. An electrocardiogram (EKG), laboratory tests and other diagnostic studies may be done. Treatment depends on the underlying condition. If slow heart rate is due to the effect of medication or toxic exposure, this must be treated medically. A pacemaker, an external device implanted into the chest to stimulate heartbeats, is the preferred treatment for certain types of bradycardia.

Call your provider:

With any alteration in heart rate outside of the normal ranges stated above.

Call 911:

If you experience any of these symptoms along with a change in your heart rate:

  • Dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Passing out or fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Arm pain
  • Jaw pain
  • Severe headache
  • Blindness or visual change
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pallor (pale skin)
  • Cyanosis (skin turns blue)
  • Disorientation
Read More

See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.


Heart Attack Overview

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A clot blocks the blood flow to the heart (heart attack), and damages heart muscle. Symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, and a blue or grey tinge to the skin.

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The thyroid gland produces a hormone that controls how your cells use energy (metabolize). Hypothyroidism occurs when the body doesn't produce enough. Untreated, it can cause comlications like obesity and heart disease.

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High Potassium

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Potassium is an electrolyte important to nerves and muscles, including the heart. High potassium, also known as hyperkalemia, is a condition that occurs when the blood contains too much potassium. This may caus...

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Congestive (Dilated) Cardiomyopathy

Congestive cardiomyopathy, also known as dilated cardiomyopathy, is characterized by a weak primary pumping chamber in the heart. Your heart automatically attempts to correct for this inefficiency. In turn, thi...

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Abnormal Heart Rhythms

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

An abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) is a change in the heart's beating pattern. There are many different types with different causes and effects. Possible symptoms are feeling faint, chest pain, and sweating.

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Subarachnoid hemorrhage

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

This life-threatening hemorrhage involves bleeding between the brain and the tissues that cover it. If you experience an extreme headache, a popping sound in your head, seizures, and other symptoms, seek immediate help.

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Intracerebral Hemorrhage

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

An intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) occurs when blood suddenly bursts into brain tissue, causing damage to the brain, which may present symptoms similar to that of a stroke. Lobar intracerebral hemorrhages occur in th...

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Stroke Overview

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A stroke (a "brain attack") is a medical emergency in which part of the brain is deprived of oxygen. This occurs when an artery that supplies oxygenated blood to the brain becomes damaged and brain cells begin to die.

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Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia is an eating disorder in which obsessive worry about body weight and the food you eat can result in severe weight loss. Symptoms include constipation, missed period, and thinning hair.

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All About Autonomic Dysrelexia (or Hyperreflexia)

Autonomic dysreflexia is a condition in which the autonomic (involuntary) nervous system overreacts to a stimulus, causing a spike in blood pressure, racing heart, and changes in other autonomic functions.

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Marine Animal Bites or Stings

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Many marine animals bite or sting. Some deliver venom through their teeth, tentacles, spines, or skin. Others, such as sharks, aren't venomous but can inflict serious bites with their large, sharp teeth. Most creature...

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Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by binge eating followed by purging, often through forced vomiting.

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Autonomic Neuropathy

Autonomic neuropathy (AN) is a condition that results from damage to nerves that assist in organ and organ system functioning. This nerve damage disturbs signal processing between the autonomic nervous system and th...

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.
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