Slow heart rate
The heart rate, usually measured by checking the arterial pulse or sounds counting the times of the heart beat, is considered one of the vital ...

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Definition

The heart rate is the number of beats (rhythmic contractions) per minute of the heart (the muscular organ in the center of the chest that maintains circulation of the blood) and is a measure of cardiac activity. A slow heart rate is slower than 50 beats per minute for an adult or child at rest.

Alternative Names

Bradycardia, heart rate decreased, heartbeats decreased, low heart rate, decreased heart rate, pulse slow, pulse rate decreased, slow heart rate, slow heartbeat, slow pulse.

Synopsis

The heart rate, usually measured by checking the arterial pulse or sounds counting the times of the heart beat, is considered one of the vital signs. Vital signs – body temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure provide information about the state of health of a person and, if abnormal, offer clues to problems. The heart rate is the number of time the heart beats per minute and is usually measured by holding a finger to the radial artery at the wrist. Other places it can be measured are at the neck (carotid artery), the groin (femoral artery), and the feet (dorsalis pedis and posterior tibial arteries).

  • The resting adult heart rate is normally 60-100 beats per minute.
  • Athletes or people on certain medications may have a lower resting normal rate.
  • The normal heart rate for children aged 1-8 years is 80-100 beats per minute
  • The normal heart rate for infants age 1 to 12 months is 100 to 120 beats per minute
  • The normal heart rate for newborns (under one month old) is 120 to 160 beats per minute

The heart rate should be strong and regular with out any missed beats. If it is beating slower than the normal rate, it might indicate a medical problem. Fainting, dizziness, loss of consciousness, weakness and fatigue can accompany slow heart rate.

Associated Diagnoses

  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Autonomic dysreflexia
  • Autonomic neuropathy
  • Congestive cardiomyopathy
  • Heart attack
  • High potassium
  • Intracerebral hemorrhage
  • Marine animal stings or bites
  • Side effects of medications
  • Stroke
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage
  • Sick sinus syndrome
  • Hypothermia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • AV node damage

Diagnosis and Treatments

A thorough medical evaluation is necessary for slow heart rate. An electrocardiogram (EKG), laboratory tests and other diagnostic studies may be done. Treatment depends on the underlying condition. If slow heart rate is due to the effect of medication or toxic exposure, this must be treated medically. A pacemaker, an external device implanted into the chest to stimulate heartbeats, is the preferred treatment for certain types of bradycardia.

Call your provider:

With any alteration in heart rate outside of the normal ranges stated above.

Call 911:

If you experience any of these symptoms along with a change in your heart rate:

  • Dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Passing out or fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Arm pain
  • Jaw pain
  • Severe headache
  • Blindness or visual change
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pallor (pale skin)
  • Cyanosis (skin turns blue)
  • Disorientation

Written by: JC Jones MA, RN
Reviewed by: Paul Auerbach, MD
Written: December 20, 2007
Last Updated: December 31, 2007
Published By: Healthline Networks Inc.
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