The Effects of a Less Than 60 Beats Per Minute Heart Rate

Although it may seem desirable to have a slower pulse, if your heart rate gets too low, you can develop symptoms and complications. The condition, called bradycardia, refers to a heart rate that is consistently lower then 60 beats per minute (bpm).

Although it may seem desirable to have a slower pulse, if your heart rate gets too low, you can develop symptoms and complications. (Image: mheim3011/iStock/GettyImages)

This situation can be the result of a problem with the heart's natural pacemaker. A healthy heart beats between 60 and 100 times a minute or 100,000 times a day.

Certain medications can slow the heart, and some diseases can affect the heart's ability to send electrical signals to the various chambers, which can interfere with the heart muscle's ability to contract and squeeze the blood out from the heart to the rest of your body. If you notice the signs and symptoms, talk to your doctor because treatment options are available.

The complete opposite of bradycardia is called tachycardia, where the heart beats over 100 times a minute.

What Can Happen

According to John Hopkins Medicine, once in while, it may be normal to have a heart rate that is lower than 60 bpm. During sleep and deep relaxation, your heart rate may slow, and some athletes have a slower pulse as a result of their training. It can be normal for an athlete's heart to beat 30 to 40 times a minute; but when training, the heart rate could rocket to a high pulse rate of 180 beats a minute.

In other cases, a slow heart rate means that your body may not be getting the blood and oxygen it needs. This can lead to feeling dizzy and lightheaded and can even cause fainting spells.

It could also be a normal heart rate by way of age. Some seniors have something called "sick sinus syndrome" in which the heart's natural pacemaker becomes wonky and does not trigger heartbeats.

As It Progresses

If your bradycardia continues for long periods, you may begin to feel weak and have trouble catching your breath. However, the Heart Rhythm Society states that not all cases of bradycardia cause symptoms or require treatment.

If your symptoms are severe enough that they interfere with daily activities — as in having trouble walking up the stairs — you may need medication or treatment of an underlying condition.

Watch for Severe Symptoms

You need to seek medical care if your symptoms become severe. This may include palpitations or a sensation that your heart is pounding in your chest, chest pain, loss of consciousness, low blood pressure (hypotension), high blood pressure or severe difficulty breathing.

Mayo Clinic states that severe symptoms may be a sign of a serious condition called heart block —atrioventricular block. This means that your heart is not able to transmit electrical impulses from the upper to lower chambers normally.

Bradycardia also increases your risk of heart failure and cardiac arrest. In these cases, the American Heart Association states that a pacemaker can be implanted to help correct the problem.

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