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Bradycardia (Slow Heartbeat)

What is bradycardia?

Bradycardia means an abnormally slow heartbeat. It is usually defined as a heartbeat that is slower than 60 beats per minute.

Some people who have slow heartbeats are completely healthy. But for others, a slow heartbeat may mean that not enough blood is being pumped to supply the needs of the heart itself.

Bradycardia can cause fatigue and other symptoms. If it is serious enough, bradycardia can cause cardiac arrest and death.

What are the symptoms?

Bradycardia does not always cause symptoms. In some people, such as athletes, a slow heart beat may be normal and completely healthy.

Most common symptoms of bradycardia are:

  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Chest discomfort

How is it treated?

The first step in treating bradycardia is determining its cause.

A major cause of bradycardia is a problem with the conduction system of your heart. The heart contains a network that acts as an electrical wiring system. This conduction system can be damaged or degenerate over time, causing your heart rate to slow down or to skip beats.

Your cardiologist may recommend a pacemaker to treat your slow heart rate. 

In some patients, other disorders—such as hypothyroidism—may be causing the slow heartbeat. If that is the case, your cardiologist will recommend treatment for the underlying condition.

Medications can be another cause of bradycardia. Your cardiologist will want to determine if a current prescription could be the cause of your slow heart beat. Often, lowering the dosage or taking an alternate medication can help resolve the problem.

What is Lee Health's approach?

If you need a pacemaker, it will be implanted at one of the electrophysiology labs at Lee Health.

We have two modern EP labs, equipped with the most recent imaging and mapping devices that can pinpoint the cause of your abnormal heart rhythm. Our labs are staffed by a dedicated team of cardiologists, nurses and technicians.

Who should I contact?

If you have been diagnosed with bradycardia or have symptoms of a slow heart beat, call Lee Health at 239-343-6350.

Having chest pain?

In a life-threatening emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number. If you are unable to do so, ask someone to call for you or to take you to the nearest emergency care facility. You may go to any hospital in your area for emergency care.