A Low Heart Rate Can Lead To Fainting And Falls If Youre Not A Highly Trained Athlete But The Condition Is Often Treatable
University Health News Editorial Standards
University Health News content is medically reviewed or checked to ensure that it is as accurate as possible. If you feel that any of our content is inaccurate, out-of-date, or otherwise questionable, please contact us through the feedback form on this page.
Health risks can develop from a low heart ratea condition called bradycardia.
A low heart rate may be a sign of an efficiently working heart. Or, if the rate becomes too low, it could be a sign of health complications down the road.
A normal or healthy resting heart rate for an adult is between 60 and 100 beats a minute. A heart rate near the lower end of that range is considered a good sign. Your heart isnt working too hard to pump blood effectively throughout the body. Its one indication of cardiovascular fitness. A very rapid heart rate, on the other hand, raises your risk of heart failure, blood clots, and other problems.
If youre not training for a marathon or swimming dozens of laps every day, you should talk with your doctor if you notice a low heart rate.
How Are Arrhythmias Treated
Many arrhythmias don’t need treatment. For those that do, these options might be used:
- Medicines. Many types of prescription anti-arrhythmic medicines are available to treat arrhythmia. Sometimes, these can increase symptoms and cause side effects, so the patient will be closely watched by the doctor.
- Pacemakers. A pacemaker is a small battery-operated device implanted into the body through a surgical procedure. Connected to the heart by a wire, a pacemaker can detect if the heart rate is too slow and send electrical signals to speed up the heartbeat.
- Defibrillators. A small battery-operated implantable cardioverter defibrillator is surgically placed near the left collarbone. Wires run from the defibrillator to the heart. The ICD senses if the heart has a dangerously fast or irregular rhythm and sends an electrical signal to restore a normal heartbeat.
- Catheter ablation. A catheter is guided through a vein in the leg to the heart. Arrhythmias often are caused by microscopic defects in the heart muscle. Once the problem area of the heart is pinpointed, the catheter heats or freezes the defective muscle cells and destroys them.
- Surgery. Surgery is usually the treatment recommended only if all other options have failed. In this case, a person is put under anesthesia and a surgeon removes the tissue causing the arrhythmia.
What Is Bradycardia How To Know If Your Heart Rate Is Too Low
- Bradycardia is when your resting heart rate is slower than normal.
- Well-trained athletes can have a resting heart rate as low as 40 or 50 bpm, and when caused by exercise, bradycardia is considered healthy.
- However, for others with a resting heart rate this low, bradycardia can be dangerous and should be checked out by a doctor.
- This article was reviewed by John Osborne, MD, PhD, and the Director of Cardiology for Dallas-based State of the Heart Cardiology.
- This story is part of Insider’s guide to Heart Disease.
Bradycardia, or a heart rate that is too slow, can be a serious condition, especially if the heart is not pumping enough oxygen-rich blood throughout the body.
Here’s what medical experts consider to be a low heart rate, how to know if you have bradycardia, and the most common ways to treat it.
Recommended Reading: Does Benadryl Lower Heart Rate
Understanding And Improving Heart Rate
Having a healthy heart matters but what can you do to keep your heart rate in a healthy range? Tracking your heart rate with a heart rate monitor is the best way to evaluate your sleeping heart rate. These tools provide you with important heart rate data that can help determine long-term health outcomes.
You can also use the old fashioned method of measuring your pulse rate with your fingertips just make sure youve had ample time to rest after a stressful event or a bout of exercise. Measuring your pulse in cooler, drier temperatures can also ensure a more accurate reading, as heat and humidity can increase heart rate.
Electrocardiograms are another test that can be used to measure the heart. Often administered by a cardiologist, these can be especially useful for people suffering from irregular heart beats, chest pain, heart palpitations, or other heart-related issues. This is a fast, simple method to measure the electrical activity of the heart in its resting state.
When it comes to improving your heart rate and aiming for a healthy range, physical activity is key. Regularly meeting your target heart rate while exercising helps strengthen your heart and improve your aerobic capacity, says Harvard Health Publishing. While this is one of the most effective ways to lower your sleeping heart rate and increase your maximum heart rate, its best to proceed with caution.
If Youre In The Middle Of A Race
One of the keys to performing well is getting the most out of your physical ability.
Far too often Ive had a runner tell me he or she was racing along just fine and then boom, out of nowhere they needed to slow way down, Cane says. It might have felt like it came out of nowhere, but in reality, it didnt.
More often than not, the difference between a successful race and a disappointing one comes down to having the awareness to make minor adjustments sooner rather than major adjustments later.
In some cases, an athlete can recognize that their effort is too hard and can back off accordingly.
Oftentimes, by the time your brain has caught on, your body has been writing checks it cant cash for quite a while already, Cane says.
Determining an appropriate heart rate for the event at hand is a great way to help determine the appropriate intensity. If you see your heart rate drifting past where it should be, you can and should adjust, Cane says.
Ideally, Cane adds, that adjustment is a subtle one, and the combination of tuning into the bodys cues and the data from your heart rate monitor can help you know when to back off a little. That scenario is preferable to having to slow to a walk.
Of course, in a race setting, at a certain point you should just race and react and not worry about going too fast, but in the earlier stages, its important not to let your ambition get the best of you.
Also Check: How To Calculate Target Heart Rate Zone
When To Worry About A Low Heart Rate
One complication related to bradycardia is a condition called syncope. It means a loss of consciousness , usually due to insufficient blood flow to the brain. A low pulse rate can compromise your circulation. Your heart may not pump fast enough to keep a healthy flow of blood up to your brain and throughout your body. Fainting, of course, can lead to dangerous falls and bone fractures.
The most common symptoms of a low heart rate, according to the American Heart Association, are fatigue, confusion, dizziness, shortness of breath, especially during exercise.
To compensate for a slowly beating heart, your heart muscle might try to pump harder to keep up with your bodys demand for oxygenated blood. This can lead to high blood pressure and even heart failure, if your heart muscle works overtime for too long a period. A low pulse rate is also paired sometimes with low blood pressure, a condition known as hypotension. Low blood pressure is also a cause of syncope.
If Youre Out For A Training Run
Sure, you may get competitive with your training buddies or internet friends on Strava, but ultimately, workouts arent made to be won or lost. Thats what race day is for.
So, if you find yourself running with an elevated heart rate for too long, you should absolutely slow down, ease up, walk for a bit, or take a few moments to regain your composure and your breath.
While it may seem counterintuitive, working harder isnt always better.
From a health perspective, in the short term, Im not too concerned that an athlete will work so hard that there are any dangers to an overly elevated heart rate, says exercise physiologist and City Coach Multisport owner Jonathan Cane. But long, high-intensity work may increase that risk.
Im a big believer in working hard on hard days, but also that the counterpoint of really easy days is important, says Cane. Ideally, each workout should have a purpose. If its a recovery day, by all means, take it easy. If its a day where your goal is to increase your threshold, then push your heart rate to that area. If its a VO2 max kind of day, by all means work really hard and dont be deterred by a high heart rate.
Recommended Reading: How Much Can Marijuana Increase A Person’s Heart Rate
What Causes A Low Heart Rate
While anyone can experience bradycardia, these factors may increase your risk:
- Age: Bradycardia is more common in older adults, specifically those who have damage to their heart from heart disease, says Duggirala. Older adults are more likely to have heart rhythm disorders because of age-related changes in the cardiovascular system, which are also associated with a higher prevalence of heart disease.
- Lifestyle factors: Tobacco abuse, substance abuse, high blood pressure, stress, and anxiety can also predispose patients to heart disease, and consequently, bradycardia.
- Health conditions: Bradycardia can be associated with damage to the heart, such as a heart attack, heart disease, or congenital heart defects. Hypothyroidism insufficient thyroid hormone and sleep apnea can also contribute to a lower than normal heart rate.
- Medication: Additionally, Duggirala says medications prescribed for high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and heart failure such as beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers can cause a low heart rate.
Know What Different Heart Rate Zones Feel Like Stay Out Of The Danger Zone
Just because your heart is pumping and youre feeling fatigued doesnt mean youre working out in the danger zone. The key is understanding your running heart rate and those zones the aerobic system, the lactic threshold system, and the anaerobic system and what they feel like so you know when youve moved past them.
If you dont have a monitor , there are other physical markers to estimate which system youre training, such as the talking test.
Generally during a run, youre in one of those three zones. If youre working with a heart rate monitor, its easy to see what heart rate zone youre working within. But if you dont have a monitor , there are other physical markers to estimate which system youre training, such as the talking test.
If you can speak in full sentences, youre likely in the aerobic zone. If you can say a few words at a time, youre probably in the lactic threshold zone. And if you can barely get out one or two words, youve probably found yourself in the anaerobic zone.
If you start to hyperventilate or get dizzy, your heart rate is probably too high, and you should stop and rest, says Jason Lakritz, PT, DPT, physical therapist at Finish Line Physical Therapy in New York City and founder of Profunctional Running.
Recommended Reading: Does Benadryl Lower Heart Rate
Your Resting Heart Rate Can Reflect Your Current And Future Health
- By Matthew Solan, Executive Editor, Harvard Men’s Health Watch
One of the easiest, and maybe most effective, ways to gauge your health can be done in 30 seconds with two fingers. Measuring your resting heart rate the number of heart beats per minute while youre at rest is a real-time snapshot of how your heart muscle is functioning.
Its easy to do. Place your index and middle finger on your wrist just below the thumb, or along either side of your neck, so you can feel your pulse. Use a watch to count the number of beats for 30 seconds and double it to get your beats per minute. Repeat a few times to ensure an accurate reading. While a heart rate is considered normal if the rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute, most healthy relaxed adults have a resting heart rate below 90 beats per minute.
You’re Dehydrated Or Too Hydrated
Minerals in your body with an electric charge are called electrolytes. If you drink too much water or not enough, it can throw off the ratio of electrolytes to water in your system, which messes with your body chemistry.
“If your potassium, calcium, or magnesium levels are very low, that can induce arrhythmias , which can manifest as a higher heart rate,” says Taub.
Read Also: Can Acid Reflux Cause Palpitations
Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome
A person with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome may experience an increased heart rate upon standing up. They may also experience dizziness and a drop in blood pressure.
POTS is a condition of the autonomic nervous system. It happens because this system does not properly regulate bodily functions such as blood pressure, heart rate, or breathing.
What To Expect At The Doctors
Your doctor may use a variety of diagnostic tools to help diagnose your condition, including:
- Electrocardiogram. Also referred to as an ECG or EKG, this diagnostic tool uses small electrodes to record the electrical activity of your heart. Your doctor can use the information collected to determine if heart abnormalities are contributing to your condition.
- Imaging tests. Imaging can be used to assess if there are any structural abnormalities in your heart that may be contributing to your condition. Possible imaging tests can include echocardiogram, CT scan, and MRI scan.
- Laboratory tests. Your doctor may order blood tests to determine if your condition is caused by something such as an electrolyte imbalance or thyroid disease.
Once a diagnosis is made, your doctor will work with you to develop a plan to treat and manage your condition.
Depending on the findings from the diagnostic tests, your doctor may refer you to a cardiologist. A cardiologist specializes in treating and preventing diseases of the heart and circulatory system.
Recommended Reading: Does Benadryl Lower Heart Rate
What’s A Normal Heart Rate
Heart rate is measured by counting the number of beats per minute. Someone’s normal heart rate depends on things like the person’s age and whether he or she leads an active lifestyle.
The resting heart rate decreases as people get older. Typical normal resting heart rate ranges are:
- babies : 100150 beats per minute
- kids 13 years old: 70110 beats per minute
- kids by age 12: 5585 beats per minute
A doctor can determine whether a heart rate is too fast or slow, since the significance of an abnormal heart rate depends on the situation. For example, a teen or adult with a slow heart rate might begin to show symptoms when the heart rate drops below 50 beats per minute. But trained athletes have a lower resting heart rate, so a slow heart rate in them isn’t considered abnormal if it causes no symptoms.
What Is The Heart Rate
Heart rate or pulse rate is the number of times your heart beats in a minute. It is a simple measure to know how much your heart works during rest or activities.
Heart rate is one of the vital signs that are checked regularly whenever you visit your doctor, or when you get admitted to the hospital.
Your heart rate is lower when you are resting and higher when you are doing any kind of activity, or are feeling stressed or anxious.
When you exercise, your heart needs to work harder, which increases your heart rate. As soon as you rest, the heart rate starts decreasing gradually and returns to its normal level, usually within an hour.
Recommended Reading: Does Benadryl Increase Your Heart Rate
What Is Low Heart Rate
The medical definition of bradycardia is a heart rate that is slower than 60 beats per minute
Note: According to the American Heart Association, for a healthy person, your heart rate should fall between a range of 60-100 beats per minute when you are resting.
However, for most people, the figure should be closer to 60 than 100, as a score of 90 or above is still a mild cause for concern. Heart rate scores that are slightly lower than the 60 BPM low point are typically acceptable too.
In most cases, however, bradycardia is rarely ever a cause for concern. Plus, what your general practitioner will consider too low varies depending on factors like your physical conditions and your age.
Furthermore, with heart rate, lower is better, and it is quite common for healthy people to post sub-60 BPM scores. Nevertheless, when you get to the sub-50 range, things can get quite iffy as a heart rate that low can stem from a host of other underlying conditions.
So, should you worry about a low heart rate reading? It depends. It depends on the underlying factor that is causing the attenuation of your BPM.
How To Tell If Your Running Heart Rate Is Too High And Then What
Originally published April 12, 2018 9:15 am, updated September 28, 2020
Its Track Tuesday, and youre up with the sun to meet your crew for an intense 12x400m workout. After a proper warm-up, you take off, crushing the first interval. Then the second. Then the third.
Going out too eager, too hard, and too fast is common. But sometimes, the problem isnt just the pace, and its definitely not your legs its your heart rate. While what goes up must eventually come down, there are warning signs that youre working too hard and thats not always a good thing.
Recommended Reading: How Do You Calculate Max Heart Rate