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What is Bradycardia?

Bradycardia refers to the medical condition that causes the heart to beat slower than normal. The heart rate of an adult is normally between 60 to 100 beats per minute. However, in the case of bradycardia, the heart beats fewer than 60 times a minute. 

Bradycardia is common in adults over 65 years of age. However, some people may experience common episodes of bradycardia due to congenital issues. Depending on the age and medical health of the individual, physically active patients are less likely to experience decreased heartbeat. While some bradycardia symptoms may resemble other medical conditions, it is advisable to get treatment to avoid severe health issues. 

What Causes Bradycardia?

Bradycardia occurs when the heart is not able to pump enough blood to the body which can lead to severe health issues. Most cases of bradycardia are associated with problems with the sinoatrial node which is the heart’s natural pacemaker. Doctors generally associate a sudden dip in heart rate with a problem in the conduction pathways of the heart that restrict electrical impulses from the atria to the ventricles. 

In addition, other heart conditions and certain medications can impact the heartbeat of an individual. Here are some factors that contribute to the Bradycardia causes - 

  • Family history
  • Electrolyte deficiencies
  • Lyme disease
  • Heart block
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Inflammation
  • Bacterial or viral infections
  • Drugs
  • Heart surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Rheumatic heart disease

What are the Types of Bradycardia?

Bradycardia types are grouped based on the type of heart rhythm and how often they occur. Some of the types are - 

  • Sinus bradycardia
  • Sinus pause (sinus arrest)
  • Sick sinus syndrome
  • Tachy-Brady syndrome
  • Heart block

What are the Symptoms of Bradycardia?

Most bradycardia symptoms occur due to insufficient blow flow to the brain and other parts of the body. This can lead to a heart rate of fewer than 60 beats per minute. Most people who are physically active may not experience any serious symptoms. However, in case of any prior heart disease or medical condition, patients may have bradycardia if they experience the following -

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest Pain (Angina)
  • Heart palpitations
  • Memory problems & confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Losing consciousness

When to Consult the Doctor for Bradycardia?

Bradycardia can lead to long-term health concerns. Therefore, it is important to get regular health checkups to ensure a healthy heart and avoid the risk of serious heart diseases. Consult the doctor for bradycardia in case you are experiencing the following - 

  • Heart failure
  • Heart attack
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Long Q-T syndrome
  • Hypothermia
  • Intracranial hypertension (too much pressure on the brain from swelling, bleeding, etc.)

How Is Bradycardia Diagnosed?

The doctor is most likely to examine your medical history report and recommend different diagnostic tests. Some patients may not experience bradycardia symptoms during the physical examination. Physical examination involves checking for visible signs and examining the vitals (like BP, heart rate, etc.). Additionally, the doctor may recommend the following tests - 

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Echocardiogram
  • Electrolyte level
  • Thyroid hormone levels
  • Troponin
  • Toxicology screen test
  • Cardiac CT scan
  • Cardiac MRI imaging
  • X-rays
  • Blood tests
  • Stress test
  • Tilt table test

What Is the Treatment for Bradycardia?

Bradycardia treatment aims to regulate the heart’s rhythm to bring the heart rate to the individual’s needs. Rare cases of slow heart rhythm usually resolve on their own and may not require treatment. However, if the bradycardia symptoms persist or get worse with time, it is important to seek medical care. 

The doctor generally recommends medications to manage mild or moderate symptoms of reduced heart rate. Inform your doctor regarding any ongoing medicines or other health conditions before opting for medications. In case of severe symptoms, bradycardia treatment involves surgical procedures and even the installation of a pacemaker to normalize the heartbeat. 

Installing a pacemaker requires surgical intervention where the surgeon uses X-ray technology to implant the device. Traditional pacemakers use wires or leads that connect the device with various points in the heart. The pacemaker sends electrical signals to the heart to increase the heart rhythm if it is beating too slowly. 

There are also leadless pacemakers (which are not bigger than the size of a large multivitamin pill) for bradycardia treatment which are suitable for patients with certain medical conditions and need single-chamber pacing only. While a pacemaker can help improve heart rhythm, it cannot fully cure the condition. Most pacemakers can last for years without any malfunction. Get in touch with your doctor to discuss your medical condition and the benefits of pacemakers. 

How Can I Prevent Bradycardia?

There are several ways to reduce the risk of bradycardia. However, if you are physically fit and still suffering from reduced heart rhythm, then you may not prevent the condition but reduce the risk of severity. Depending on the age and medical condition of the patient, bradycardia prevention includes the following - 

  • Encourage physical activity
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight 
  • Quit smoking and alcohol consumption
  • Manage stress
  • Maintain your blood pressure and cholesterol levels 
  • Go for regular checkups 


What is the difference between bradycardia and tachycardia?

Bradycardia arises when the heartbeat is less than 60 beats per minute. On the other hand, tachycardia refers to a medical condition where the heart rhythm is more than 100 beats per minute. 

What are the possible complications of bradycardia?

Bradycardia complications can differ from one patient to another depending on the medical health of the patient and the severity of the condition. Possible complications related to bradycardia involve - 

  • Frequent fainting
  • Chest pain 
  • High blood pressure
  • Low blood pressure
  • Heart failure

When should I go to the hospital for my heart rate?

Consult the heart doctor if your heartbeat is either more than 100 beats per minute or less than 60 beats per minute. You should also seek medical care if the symptoms of arrhythmia become severe and affect your daily lifestyle.

What questions should I ask the doctor before my bradycardia treatment?

Here is a list of questions you should ask the doctor before your treatment - 

  • What is the exact cause of my slow heart rate?
  • Will I need any tests?
  • Is the condition curable?
  • How often will I need follow-up appointments?
  • Are there any chances of complications?

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