Causes of a low pulse rate

Written by harper jones
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Causes of a low pulse rate
A GP or practice nurse can test your pulse rate. (Marijus Auruskevicius/iStock/Getty Images)

A low pulse rate -- medically termed bradycardia -- can be a symptom of other underlying health issues. However, it can also be a sign of a healthy, fit individual. There are many causes of bradycardia, some that are healthy and others that are not. If you are concerned about your heart rate, consult with your family doctor or GP practice nurse.

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Physiology

A slow pulse rate is generally found in a healthier individual. The acceptable range of pulse rates is between 60 and 100 beats per minute, but a slower pulse rate, known medically as bradycardia, is not uncommon, especially in endurance athletes and healthy adolescents. Some doctors believe that certain individuals are genetically predisposed to slower than average heart rates, with some healthy people having rates within the upper 40s or 50s.

Bradycardia

Sometimes a slow pulse can mean that there are health problems, generally with the heart's electrical system. If a doctor diagnoses bradycardia, there is often concern that the heart is beating so slowly that it is unable to provide enough blood to the body's extremities, or that there will be a drop in blood pressure that may become dangerous. Bradycardia can be caused by ageing, heart diseases such as endocarditis, myocarditis or coronary diseases, low thyroid levels, and electrolyte imbalances. Sometimes medicines such as beta-blockers or digoxin can cause bradycardia.

Symptoms

If you have bradycardia that is also causing a drop in blood pressure, you may experience a number of symptoms. These include dizziness, feeling tired or short of breath, chest pain, and/or fainting spells. An individual who has a low pulse rate due to his level of fitness or age will typically not experience these symptoms. If you experience these symptoms, contact your health care provider immediately.

How to lower pulse rate

Endurance activities are the best way to increase the strength of your heart muscle and lower your pulse rate in a healthy way. Jogging, swimming, jumping rope or engaging in sports such as tennis, athletics or football are great ways to increase cardiovascular endurance rate in efforts to lower your heart rate. When you lower your heart rate through exercise, your heart becomes a more efficient organ and doesn't have to work as hard to pump blood throughout the body.

Cause for concern

When there are symptoms accompanying a slow pulse, it is time to be concerned. Generally symptoms that coincide with low pulse mean that there is a health problem that should be treated. When the heart rate is too slow, most people experience disturbing symptoms, such as dizziness, fatigue and weakness. Contact your GP if you are experiencing these symptoms or have other concerns regarding your heart rate.

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