Understand Your Condition
What Increases Your Risk?
Many factors can affect how fast or slow your heart beats. For example, your:
- Activity level
- Sleep (the heart beats slowly during sleep)
- Imbalance of electrolytes, such as low potassium levels (minerals need to be at the right levels for the body to work properly)
You are at greater risk for developing bradycardia if you:
- Are 65 or older. The heart’s electrical system can become damaged as we age, making older people especially prone to slower heart rates.
- Have some heart disease or heart damage. For example:
- Coronary artery disease
- Previous heart attack
- Issues with how your heart’s electrical system is working (left bundle branch block causes a delay in how electrical signals are sent from the upper to lower chambers of the heart)
- Congenital heart disease (for example, being born with a hole in the heart)
- Infection (myocarditis)
- An inflammatory disease that affects cells (sarcoidosis)
- Have had heart surgery. It can be a complication of some heart procedures (for example, bypass, valve replacement, TAVR and others).
- Have untreated high blood pressure.
- Take certain medications. For example, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, certain antidepressants.
- Have other medical conditions. For example, sleep apnea, low thyroid function (hypothyroidism), certain neurologic disorders (epilepsy) or excessive alcohol or recreational drug use.
- Have family history of a slow heart rate.
Research shows that Lyme disease can also affect the heart’s electrical system and cause heart block, which may make bradycardia more likely.
Talk with your doctor if you:
- Are over age 65
- Know of someone in your family with heart rhythm problems
- Notice any of these symptoms, even if mild
- Have noticed a change in your heart rate
- Suspect you had a tick bite or may have Lyme disease
Published: November 2018
Medical Reviewers: Mikhael F. El-Chami, MD, FACC; Martha Gulati, MD, MS, FACC, FAHA, FASPC