What are the common causes of a low heart rate?

Bradycardia is a condition that is commonly known as a slow heart rate. A normal heart rate for an adult at rest is considered to be 60 to 100 beats per minute. Any heart rate below this is considered low. Sometimes this condition is caused by a certain health problem, especially heart problems, or medications. Other times, it may not be a problem at all, just a sign of good health.

When an individual has a low heart rate, one of the most common causes is an underlying heart problem. A heart attack or other trauma to the heart, for example, can cause problems with the heart's natural pacemaker. This can sometimes cause a person's heart to beat too fast or too slow.

Many times, patients with this type of problem must have an artificial pacemaker. These small electronic devices are often surgically implanted in the chest. This device is attached to the heart, and electrical impulses cause the heart to beat in a regular rhythm.

Patients with certain thyroid problems may also suffer from a low heart rate. Hypothyroidism, for example, occurs when the thyroid gland produces an insufficient amount of thyroxine. This is the hormone responsible for regulating a person's metabolic rate. Low levels of this hormone can cause a slow heart rate.

Chemical imbalances, such as electrolyte imbalance, in a person's body can also cause the heart to beat too slowly. Hyperkalemia occurs when a person's blood has too much potassium. This can cause the heart muscles to stop working properly, which can lead to a low heart rate and, in some cases, heart failure. A massive dose of potassium is injected into prisoners sentenced to death by lethal injection.

A low heart rate can also be a side effect of some medications. Ironically, most of the medications that can cause this side effect are the same medications used to treat other heart problems. Beta-blockers, for example, are used to treat high blood pressure, but they can also cause a dangerously low heart rate in some people.

In some people, a low heart rate is actually a sign of good health and fitness. People who exercise regularly, including trained athletes, tend to have a lower heart rate than people who are more sedentary. This occurs because active people generally have much healthier hearts.

A person who has a low heart rate usually only needs to be concerned if they are experiencing negative symptoms. Some signs of medical problems related to a slow heart rate include dizziness and fainting, along with weakness, fatigue, and chest pains.

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