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The Effects of a Slow Heart Beat

by
author image Rachel Morgan
Rachel Morgan began her writing career in 2008 after previously working in her state's community college system. She focuses on health and fitness writing, in addition to blogging for small businesses. An alumna of the University of North Carolina, Morgan has a bachelor's degree in public health and has studied PR in the past.
The Effects of a Slow Heart Beat
Sleep apnea can cause a slow heartbeat. Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Having a slow heart beat isn't always a health problem. In fact, it's normal for some people, especially healthy, young individuals. The medical term for this condition is bradycardia. It's defined as having a heart rate of less than 60 beats per minute, according to MayoClinic.com. Bradycardia becomes a medical problem when you are experiencing side effects, which can also point to some serious root causes of your slow heart rate. Consult your physician if you are having any complications involving a slow or irregular heartbeat.

Fatigue

Having a slow heart rate can reduce the amount of oxygen throughout the body, affecting the function of your organs. Weakness and fatigue are common symptoms as a result of this lack of adequate oxygen supply. Bradycardia can also affect your ability to sleep, which increases tiredness during the day. One common disorder that affects sleep, obstructive sleep apnea, can cause you to have an abnormally slow heart beat. Bradycardia can make physical activity a challenge; pair that with fatigue resulting from sleep apnea and you can have a considerably difficult time with activity during the day.

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Dizziness & Fainting

Dizziness is another typical symptom of a slow heartbeat. It can lead to fainting spells in some cases due to the reduced supply of oxygen to your vital organs. Having a heart rate disorder such as an arrhythmia can cause your heart to beat too slowly. In addition to dizziness and fainting, symptoms of an arrhythmia include lightheadedness, sweating and changes to your heart rate. You may experience palpitations and feel your heart skip beats, which also affects your pulse pattern, according to the National Institutes of Health's MedlinePlus.

Cardiovascular Problems

An abnormal heartbeat can have cardiovascular effects. You may experience chest pain as well as shortness of breath. Ignoring bradycardia contributes to your heart's inability to adequately pump blood, increasing your chances of heart failure. Untreated bradycardia can also lead to cardiac arrest and sudden death in severe cases, according to the MayoClinic.com. This is of particular concern if you have conditions causing the slow heartbeat, such as heart disease, hypertension, congenital heart defects and lupus.

Treatment

Medical tests are needed to determine what the root cause of your slow heartbeat is before starting a treatment plan. Treating the source condition can restore a normal heart rate. Taking synthetic thyroid medications, for example, can stop the effects of having an underactive thyroid, a potential cause of bradycardia. Having a medical procedure to implant a pacemaker may be necessary if other treatment methods are ineffective. This electrical device regulates your heartbeat and also records information for your physician to monitor.

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