How is Bradycardia Diagnosed?
Bradycardia symptoms should be taken seriously. Your doctor will perform a history and physical exam to check your pulse, measuring heartbeats (monitoring for slow heartbeats) and a potential abnormal heart rhythm. They will also ask questions about your medical history and symptoms.
If necessary, certain steps will be taken to confirm an irregular heartbeat, investigate the cause of the cardiac arrhythmias, and monitor your heart rate.
Tests to diagnose bradycardia can include:
- ECG or EKG (electrocardiogram) - A simple test where electrodes are placed on the chest (and occasionally on the arms and legs) to record the heart’s electrical system and rhythms
- Heart monitor - To get more information about the bradycardia heart rate, you may be asked to wear an at-home heart monitor for a few days, to record how often and how far it dips under 60 beats per minute. A heart monitor box (Holter monitor) can be worn around the waist, over the shoulder, or clipped to a pocket or belt.
- Event recorder - An event recorder monitors your heart for extended periods, sometimes up to 30 days. Unlike the Holter heart monitor, it doesn’t record continuously. The device may automatically start recording when signs of bradycardia are detected, or you may have to push a button when the symptoms begin. Many monitors come in patch form.
- Stress test (exercise stress test) - To observe your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing during physical exercise, you will walk/run on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike while an EKG captures the heart’s electrical activity.
How is Bradycardia Treated?
Bradycardia treatment depends on the type, symptom severity, and underlying cause of the abnormal heart rate. Treatment options generally include surgical procedures (pacemakers), dietary/lifestyle changes, and medication.
A pacemaker is a small device surgically placed under the skin in the chest area with leads (wires) that connect the device to the heart via the bloodstream to control the heartbeat. It sends electrical impulses that cause the heart muscles to contract and pump blood. Some pacemakers are now leadless and are directly implanted into the heart.
In some cases, where bradycardia is a result of a reversible, the pacemaker may be temporary to help the heart recover. In chronic cases, bradycardia may require a permanent pacemaker to prevent heart failure. A lot of bradycardia caused by heart attack leads to permanent pacemaker placement.
Medications for bradycardia
It is exceedingly rare to treat symptomatic bradycardia medically. However, sometimes bradycardia is temporary, and certain medications may be prescribed to combat specific forms of bradycardia or an underlying cause. Atropine, for example, may be useful in treating sinus bradycardia and certain types of AV blocks. Bradycardia medications for conditions that affect the heart, such as hypothyroidism or to treat high blood pressure, Lyme disease, and AV block may also be needed.
Dietary and lifestyle changes
The onset of bradycardia can come from an unhealthy diet and lifestyle habits that damage the heart. Quitting smoking, drinking in moderation, eating heart-healthy foods, regular exercise, and lowering your stress and anxiety levels can decrease your chances of developing heart conditions that lead to bradycardia. Obstructive sleep apnea can cause heart disease, high blood pressure, slow heart rate, increased chest pain, and damage to the heart muscle.
Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Bradycardia Treatment
For over 20 years, NewYork-Presbyterian has provided unsurpassed cardiology and cardiac surgical care. Our top-notch specialists are familiar with the symptoms and causes of bradycardia and a vast spectrum of other heart conditions, including all types of arrhythmias .
If you’ve been diagnosed with bradycardia or are experiencing symptoms, don’t hesitate to reach out to NewYork-Presbyterian today for bradycardia treatment options and compassionate cardiac care.