What is Bradycardia?
Slow Heart Rate: How to treat Bradycardia
Bradycardia: What is It?
Bradycardia is commonly known as slow heart rate. To understand this better, we should remember that a normal heart rate is between 60 and 80 beats per minute.
If your heart rate is below 60, then it may be considered as bradycardia (unless you are a professional athlete or a young adult). This condition is usually not serious. However, if our heart cannot pump sufficient blood, some complications may arise.
For this reason, it is always advisable to visit your doctor regularly. If bradycardia goes undiagnosed for an extended period of time, complications like cardiac arrest, angina, and high blood pressure, may arise.
Why does A Person’s Heartbeat Run Fast or Slow?
When we work out, our resting heartbeat is slower. As we age, we are more prone to have a slower heartbeat, since our muscles weaken.
If our heartbeat is too slow, our organs may not be able to receive enough oxygen to function properly.
An elite athlete’s body adapts to a low heart rate, that is, his or her body pumps sufficient blood.
Electrical Circuit of the Heart
In order to know more about bradycardia, it is essential to remember some facts about the heart proper function.
The human heart is made up of 4 chambers, that is, 4 ventricles (2 lower and 2 upper ventricles). Our natural pacemaker, the sinus node, is located in the right atrium, and it normally controls heart rhythm. In other words this pacemaker produces electrical impulses that initiate each heartbeat.
Blood is pumped into the ventricles after these electrical impulses travel across the atria, and they arrive at the atrioventricular node. When these electrical signals are slow or blocked bradycardia occurs.
There are 5 different types of bradycardia:
- Sinus pause: it occurs when the heart misses 1 or beats. Our natural pacemaker fails to activate the electrical system throughout the rest of the heart.
- Sinus bradycardia: it occurs when the heart rate is below 60 beats per minute. It is harmless and is often seen in athletic, healthy people. However, if the heart rate is below 40 bpm (beats per minute), then a prompt checkup with the doctor is imperative.
- Sick sinus syndrome: it occurs when there is an irregular heartbeat. The natural heart rate may malfunction and exhibit a combination of slow and fast arrhythmias.
- Tachy-brady syndrome: it occurs when the heart beats too quickly and then too slow. It is usually seen in people with atrial fibrillation when the natural heart’s pacemaker is damaged.
- Heart block: it is an abnormality in the way electricity circulates in the heart: the electrical pulse is blocked from passing through the heart’s electrical pathways, therefore causing a slow heart rate.
What Causes Bradycardia?
There are certain underlying conditions that trigger bradycardia, for example:
- Atrial fibrillation,
- Heart arrhythmia,
- A congenital heart defect,
- Rheumatic fever,
- Heart tissue damage due to aging,
- Atrioventricular block,
- Heart surgery complication,
- Sleep apnea,
- Hypothyroidism, Lyme disease,
- Taking narcotics,
- Taking medications, such as Atenolol, Propranolol, Metoprolol, Diltiazem, and Verapamil.
What Are The Symptoms of Bradycardia?
Bradycardia symptoms include:
- Chest pains,
- Near fainting,
- Unusual fatigue,
- Shortness of breath,
- Memory problems,
Can Bradycardia Be Prevented?
There are some factors that may cause bradycardia, for example: heart damage, high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary artery disease, smoking, drug and heavy alcohol use, stress, anxiety, and renal insufficiency.
Bradycardia can be prevented through healthy lifestyle habits.
- Quit smoking,
- Limit your alcohol intake,
- Avoid using illegal drugs,
- Find positive ways to manage stress,
- Maintain a healthy weight,
- Exercise regularly,
- Eat a healthy diet,
- Visit your doctor regularly.
How To Treat Bradycardia
Bradycardia treatment will vary according to the type, cause, and severity of the condition. If there is an underlying cause, then the main focus will be on addressing the primary condition.
Mild bradycardia (if it does not cause symptoms like dizziness, fainting, or weakness) is not dangerous, and it usually does not require treatment.
As we mentioned above, bradycardia may be caused by some medications. Some drugs used to control blood pressure or other conditions, like beta blockers or calcium channel blockers, will have to be adjusted if they cause bradycardia.
Occasionally, surgery will be necessary. In this procedure a pacemaker will be implanted when other treatment options do not work.
Bradycardia Natural Treatments
There are a few options to treat bradycardia naturally. Read the following tips:
- Eat a healthy diet: cardiovascular disease is a risk factor that can be prevented by lowering cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. Consume nutritious foods, such as lean proteins, fish, fruits, and vegetables.
- Relieve anxiety and reduce your stress levels: unfortunately, these are more common nowadays. However, we should all try to find stress relievers, like a hobby, a sport, expressing feelings like fear, gratitude, etc. You can try writing in a journal, it may help cope with stressful situations.
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 acids: they lower bad cholesterol. Some options include: fresh fish, Chia seeds, walnuts, sardines, anchovies, egg yolks, and flaxseed oil.
- Add a CoQ10 supplement: it is beneficial for your heart. Some natural foods that contain this essential fat-soluble substance are cauliflower, oranges, broccoli, cabbage, pistachio nuts, and sesame seeds.