What is a “slow”
Your heart rate is the number of beats (rhythmic contractions) per minute of
your heart. Your heart is the muscular organ, located in the chest, behind and
to the left of the breastbone that maintains circulation of the blood. Heart
rate is a measure of cardiac activity.
Heart rate is one of the vital signs. Vital signs like body temperature,
pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure provide information about a person’s
state of health. Any abnormality of these signs can offer diagnostic clues.
A slow heart rate is considered anything slower than 50 beats per minute for
an adult or child at rest.
Alternative names for this condition include:
heart rate by the numbers
You can measure your own heart rate. First, find your heart rate 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). Then, count the number of beats
per minute while you are resting.
Here are some numbers to keep in mind:
resting adult heart rate is normally 60 to 100 beats per minute.
or people on certain medications may have a lower resting normal rate.
normal heart rate for children aged 1 to 12 years is 80 to 110 beats per minute.
normal heart rate for infants age 1 to 12 months is 100 to 160 beats per
Problems that can
accompany a slow heart rate
Your heart rate should be strong and regular without any missed beats. If
it’s beating slower than the normal rate, it might indicate a medical problem.
Fainting, dizziness, loss of consciousness, weakness, and fatigue can accompany
a slow heart rate.
In some cases, a slow heart rate is an indication of an extremely healthy
heart. Athletes, for instance, often have lower than normal resting heart rates
because their heart is strong and doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood
throughout the body. However, when a slower heart rate is uncommon or
accompanied by other symptoms, it could be a sign of something more serious.
causes of a slow heart rate
A thorough medical evaluation is necessary to determine the cause of a slow
heart rate. An electrocardiogram
(EKG or ECG), laboratory tests, and other diagnostic studies may be done.
Potential medical causes of a slow heart rate include:
Treating the cause
of a slow heart rate
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. An
external device (pacemaker)
implanted into the chest to stimulate heartbeats is the preferred treatment for
certain types of bradycardia.
Because a low heart rate could indicate medical problems, make an
appointment with your doctor if you notice any changes in your heart rate,
especially if the changes are accompanied by other symptoms.
Recognizing a potential
In certain situations, a slow heart rate could indicate a medical emergency.
The following symptoms can be serious:
If you have any of these symptoms and a change in your heart rate, call 911
or seek emergency medical attention immediately.