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Bradycardia Causes and Ways to Help

blood pressure | June 25, 2018 | Author: Naturopath

Blood pressure

Bradycardia Causes and Ways to Help

Our heart rate can give us valuable information about the health of our heart and overall wellbeing. A normal resting heart rate is between 60 and 100. If it dips below 60 beats a minute this is called a slow heart rate or bradycardia. Generally, a lower heart rate implies greater heart function and cardiovascular fitness. However, in some people it can be problematic as it impacts the blood supply to vital organs and can lead to dizziness, fatigue and fainting.

What is bradycardia?

Bradycardia is defined as an abnormally slow heart rate of less than 60 beats per minute.

Each time the heart beats, oxygen rich blood is dispersed throughout the body. When you have a very low heart rate your vital organs may be deprived of oxygen and other nutrients which they need to function optimally.

Sinus bradycardia

When the condition starts in the sinus node, this is called sinus bradycardia. The sinus node is the natural pacemaker of the heart. It triggers electrical signals which are important to heart contractility. In sinus bradycardia these electrical impulses that trigger the heart rate are not happening as they should. Bradycardia can also occur because electrical signals transmitted through the atria aren't transmitted to the ventricles. This is then referred to as heart block, or atrioventricular block.

Low heart rate—is this normal?

In very fit individuals and elite athletes, bradycardia can be normal. In these people, their bodies have adapted to a very low heart rate as their body is efficiently pumping blood. What is bradycardia?

In this scenario bradycardia isn’t considered a health concern unless it is causing problems. 

Bradycardia is often associated with age and factors that increase your risk of heart disease including:

  • smoking
  • high blood pressure
  • lack of exercise
  • alcohol abuse
  • stress
  • recreational drug use

Bradycardia signs and symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of a low heart rate can include:

  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Fainting or near fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Memory problems
  • Intolerance to exercise

These warning signs indicate that your brain and other vital organs aren’t receiving enough oxygen.

What causes bradycardia?

Sometimes no obvious cause for a low heart rate can be found. If a cause is identified it may include the following factors:

  • Certain medications
  • Heart tissue damage
  • Underactive thyroid
  • Imbalance of electrolytes
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Heart disorder
  • Infection of the heart tissue
  • Inflammatory disease, such as rheumatic fever or lupus

Measuring your heart rate

A simple way to measure your heart rate is to check your pulse.

Measuring your heart ratePlace you index and third fingers on your neck to the side of your windpipe. Alternatively, you can place two fingers on your wrist over your radial artery which is located between the bone and tendon on the side closest to your thumb. 
When you feel a small thump, that’s your pulse. Count the number of beats per 15 seconds and then multiply this number by four to calculate your beats per minute.

To obtain your resting heart rate you must do this at rest and at a time away from physical activity.

Ways to help bradycardia

The most effective way to reduce your risk of bradycardia is to adopt healthy diet and lifestyle techniques to reduce your risk of heart disease. If you have bradycardia it is important to address the underlying reason and in severe cases this may result in surgery to implant a pacemaker. Otherwise, here are some general recommendations for people who have a slow heart rate.
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Heart smart diet

Eating a diet which boosts the function of the heart and provides protection is an important factor in treating or preventing bradycardia. Avoid processed foods that are high in saturated and trans fat, sugar and salt.

The heart foundation of Australia recommends as part of a healthy diet we consume:

  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • lean protein
  • wholegrains
  • low-fat dairy
  • healthy fats
  • herbs and spices instead of salt
  • drink water

 

Healthy lifestyle

In addition to eating a well-balanced diet, its suggested that you quit smoking, reduce your alcohol intake, watch your weight, and begin getting regular exercise. Control risk factors by working to address high blood pressure, diabetes and atherosclerosis, and find ways to reduce stress. The hormones released by the body in response to stress, anxiety and depression make the heart work harder. Implementing exercise, finding a hobby, seeking social interactions and using relaxation techniques are all ways to reduce the effects of stress.

Omega-3

Omega-3 essential fatty acids can be found in the foods we eat like fish, nuts and linseed, but for most people they fall short of the recommended 250-500mg per day. This causes an imbalance with our omega-6 essential fatty acids leading to inflammation and disease. In addition to boosting your dietary intake of omega-3 consider taking a concentrated fish oil. For general heart health consider taking a lower dose but if you have cardiovascular concerns a higher dosage is usually recommended.

Co-enzyme Q10

Found in almost every cell of the body, Co-enzyme Q10 is a fat-soluble, vitamin-like substance that helps convert food into energy. It is also a powerful antioxidant that protects against damage from toxic free radicals—especially the heart.

Researchers report that Coenzyme Q10 may have significant benefits for people with cardiovascular disease, from reducing risk for repeat heart attacks and improving outcomes in patients with heart failure to lowering blood pressure and helping combat side effects of cholesterol-lowering statins.

L-carnitine

This amino acid is essential for energy metabolism of the heart muscle. Because L-carnitine and its esters help reduce oxidative stress, they have been proposed as a treatment for many conditions, such as heart failure, angina and weight loss. In animal studies, diabetic rats with reduced serum carnitine levels and bradycardia achieved normal heart rates after increasing their levels of carnitine. While more studies are needed to confirm these findings in humans, L-carnitine in the meantime is a safe supplement that benefits the heart and provides protection.

4 key points to remember

  • Bradycardia is a slower than normal heart rate below 60 beats per minute
  • It may be a normal finding in elite athletes but in others can be a sign of an underlying disorder
  • Preventing cardiovascular disease with a healthy diet and lifestyle reduces your risk of bradycardia
  • Omega-3, L-carnitine and co-enzyme Q10 can provide heart support and may improve symptoms of bradycardia

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References

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bradycardia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355474

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/heart-rate/faq-20057979

https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/healthy-eating/food-and-nutrition

Jain AP, et al. Omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2015;19(3):441-5

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25720716

Yang YK, et al. Coenzyme Q10 treatment of cardiovascular disorders of ageing including heart failure, hypertension and endothelial dysfunction. Clin Chim Acta. 2015 Oct 23;450:83-9

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26254995

Malone MA, et al. Diabetes-induced bradycardia is an intrinsic metabolic defect reversed by carnitine. Metabolism. 2007 Aug;56(8):1118-23

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17618959

Pekala J, et al. L-carnitine--metabolic functions and meaning in human’s life. Curr Drug Metab. 2011 Sep;12(7):667-78

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21561431

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