health matters

Health Talk: Sinus Bradycardia/Bradyarrhythmia

  1. What Sinus Bradycardia/Bradyarrhythmia Is

    Bradycardia (bray-dee-card-dee-uh) is defined as an irregular heartbeat or a heart rate of less than 60 minutes which consists of different types ( collectively known as bradyarrhythmia):
  • Sinus Bradycardia – an unusually irregular heartbeat caused by heart disease, reaction to certain medications or even normal causes (e.g. excellent fitness or relaxation)
  • Sick sinus syndrome – known or referred to as an unusually slow heartbeat caused by a malfunctioning of the heart’s pacemaker.
  • Heart block or AV block – it is an unusually slow heartbeat caused by slowing or blocking of electrical impulses through the heart’s system.

From the term itself, the term “sinus” refers to the sinus node, which is the heart’s pacemaker that creates a normal regular heartbeat of a person. Brady from the Greek word, ‘bradys’ which means slow and cardia or kardia meaning heart.

II. How Is Sinus Bradycardia/Bradyarrhythmia diagnosed?

Before going through any test, your doctor would simply review the patient’s symptoms and family and medical history, as well as conduct a physical examination. A series of tests may be recommended by the doctor to measure a patient’s heart rate in order to establish the link between the slow heart rate and his/her symptoms and identify the conditions that could possibly cause the problem.

An echocardiogram is one of the tests used or recommended by the doctor to evaluate bradycardia. This type of test uses small sensors or electrodes that are being attached to a patient’s chest and arms to record the electrical signals being sent through the heart, allowing the doctor to look for the patterns and determine the kind of bradycardia that a patient may have.

Other device(s) used in measuring a person’s heart rate are:

  • Holter monitor – this is a portable type of ECG that can be carried around in a pocket, or even worn around the belt or strap or shoulder strap, recording the activity of a patient’s heart for 24 hours and providing the doctor with a prolonged look at his or her heart rhythms.
  • Event recorder – another portable ECG device which is intended to monitor the heart’s activity from over a week and lasting to a few months and can only be activated when the symptoms related to slow heart rate seem to act up.
  • Tilt table test – a kind of test that helps the doctor or attending physician understand how bradycardia or slow heart rate could cause fainting spells. This is type of test is done wherein a doctor asks the patient to lie flat on a special table then tilting it as if the patient is standing up.
  • Exercise test – another type of test wherein a patient’s heart rate is being monitored while walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike, checking whether the heart rate increases appropriately in response to the activity.

Apart from these tests, the doctor may also recommend some laboratory examination in order to screen some underlying conditions that may possibly be causing bradycardia (e.g. infection, underactive thyroid, or electrolyte imbalance). 

III. What Causes Sinus Bradycardia/Bradyarrhythmia?

There are several possible causes of sinus bradycardia or arrhythmia and these are : heart tissue damage related to aging, damage to heart tissues brought about by heart attack, hypertension, congenital heart defects, myocarditis, complication of heart surgery, hypothyroidism, electrolyte imbalances, disruption of breathing during sleep, inflammatory disease (e.g. lupus, rheumatic fever), hemochromatosis, certain medications for heart rhythm disorders, high blood pressure, and psychosis. Other than this, sinus bradycardia may also be caused by problems in the sinus node (which may disrupt the electrical impulse traveling through the heart) and even heart block wherein electrical signals are not being transmitted to the heart’s ventricles.

IV. What Are The Symptoms of Sinus Bradycardia/Bradyarrhythmia?

A patient who has bradycardia may experience lack of oxygen supply needed by his or her brain and other organs , as well some of the symptoms like syncope, dizziness, weakness, shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pains, confusion/memory problems, and tiredness from activity.

V. Who Are At Risk of Sinus Bradycardia/Bradyarrhythmia?

There are at least two risk factors of bradycardia: age and heart disease. Older adults and those with poor lifestyles (e.g. smoking, heavy alcohol abuse, use of recreational drugs) , as well as psychological stress and anxiety are prone to this type of heart rhythm disorder.

VII. What Are The Possible Complications of Sinus Bradycardia/Bradyarrhythmia?

Sinus bradycardia may take a toll on a person’s health, especially the heart wherein electrical conduction problems may occur and damage the heart tissue when left untreated. Patients having this may experience frequent fainting spells, heart failure and even sudden cardiac arrest/death.

VIII. What Are The Medications and Treatments for Sinus Bradycardia/Bradyarrhythmia?

The doctor may either recommend treatments , depending on the type of problems in electrical conduction in the heart, severity of the symptoms, and cause of bradycardia , change in prescribed medications for the heart rhythm disorder , or even a pacemaker.

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