The hearts of adults at rest usually beat between 60 and 100 times a minute. If you have bradycardia, your heart beats fewer than 60 times a minute. Bradycardia can be a serious problem if the heart rate is very slow and the heart can’t pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the body.
When it comes to elderly patients, a slow heart rate may be normal—or risky. Rates as low as 40 beats/minute may be normal and simply result from a decreased response to either epinephrine or beta-adrenergic stimulation. Or such slow rates may result from a dangerous arrhythmia.
A resting heart rate slower than 60 bpm is considered bradycardia. Athletic and elderly people often have a heart rate slower than 60 bpm when they are sitting or lying down, and a heart rate less than 60 bpm is common for many people during sleep.
When the heart does not operate as it is supposed to and develops an abnormally slow heart rate that is less than 60 beats per minute, the condition is known as bradycardia. Bradycardia can be life threatening if the heart is unable to maintain a rate that pumps enough oxygen-rich blood throughout the body.
The medical term for a low heart rate is bradycardia. Sometimes a low heart rate is defined as below 60 beats per minute, but it would probably make more sense to have low heart rate defined as below 50 beats per minute.
The normal resting heart rate for adults over the age of 10 years, including older adults, is between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm).
Ways to get your heart rate up
Adults and children who have a low pulse and experience severe symptoms, such as chest pain or fainting, should also go to the hospital. A person should see a doctor for bradycardia when: they experience an unexplained change in heart rate that lasts for several days.
For most adults — including senior adults — a normal resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute.
Taken together it’s referred to as bradycardia-tachycardia, or tachy-brady, syndrome. This is a type of sick sinus syndrome, and can be associated with the heart rhythm disorder atrial fibrillation and raise a person’s risk for complications that include stroke and sudden death, or cardiac arrest.
When bradycardia is more severe, you may experience shortness of breath, chest pain, and fainting. If severe bradycardia goes untreated, it could lead to cardiac arrest, meaning the heart stops beating, and that can lead to death. Not everyone with bradycardia has symptoms.
Treatment depends on the underlying condition. If slow heart rate is due to the effect of medication or toxic exposure, this must be treated medically. An external device (pacemaker) implanted into the chest to stimulate heartbeats is the preferred treatment for certain types of bradycardia.
If you have bradycardia, your resting heart rate is slower than usual—beating fewer than 50 times per minute. Bradycardia can be harmless, but in some cases it can be life-threatening.
Dehydration, Heart Rate, and Heart Health The amount of blood circulating through your body, or blood volume, decreases when you are dehydrated. To compensate, your heart beats faster, increasing your heart rate and causing you to feel palpitations.
Heart failure signs and symptoms may include: Shortness of breath with activity or when lying down. Fatigue and weakness. Swelling in the legs, ankles and feet.
If you’re sitting down and feeling calm, your heart shouldn’t beat more than about 100 times per minute. A heartbeat that’s faster than this, also called tachycardia, is a reason to come to the emergency department and get checked out. We often see patients whose hearts are beating 160 beats per minute or more.