A normal heart beats at 60 to 100 per minute. But when your resting heart beats lower than 60 (except when you’re an athlete or engaged in sports activities), and you start experiencing frequent dizziness, lack of energy and fainting spells, you might already be experiencing a heart disease called bradycardia.
The rhythm of a human heart is controlled by a natural pacemaker. It is called the sinus node, which is located in the right atrium (upper chamber) of the heart. The sinus node is responsible for producing electrical impulses that fires the heart to beat. These electrical impulses push the atria to contract and pump blood and oxygen into the ventricles (lower chamber of the heart). The whole process produces the oxygen, which will be sent to the lungs and the whole body—the right ventricle of the heart contracts and sends the oxygen-poor blood to the lungs and the left ventricle sends oxygen-rich blood to the body.
But when the electrical signals slow down or are blocked, bradycardia sets in.
Among the causes of bradycardia are the following:
- Bad habits like smoking, drinking alcoholic drinks, taking illegal drugs and eating too much fatty and sugary food, which could lead to obesity;
- High blood pressure;
- Snoring or obstructive sleep apnea;
- Congenital heart defect;
- Degeneration of heart tissue due to aging;
- Myocarditis or infection of the heart tissue;
- Damage to heart tissues from a lingering heart disease or a sudden heart attack
- Hardening of the arteries in the heart or arteriosclerosis;
- Imbalance of electrolytes and mineral-related substances for conducting electrical impulses;
- Inflammatory diseases like lupus and rheumatic fever;
- Hemochromatosis or the build-up of iron in the organs;
- Complication from a heart surgery; and
- Medicines or drugs for psychosis, high-blood pressure or heart rhythm disorders.
In very young children, bradycardia happens when they often get the flu, which is caused by the coxsackie virus, also known as viral myocarditis. The coxsackie type A virus causes herpangina or painful blisters in the mouth, throat, hands and feet. This is most commonly known as hand, foot-and-mouth disease. While the coxsackie type B virus causes epidemic pleurodynia or fever, lung and abdominal pain with headache that lasts up to 12 days. These two types of coxsackie virus can cause heart problems, which will eventually lead to the abnormal deceleration of the heartbeat.
Dr. Joey Montemayor, cardiologist-surgeon and a lawyer said to Radyo Klinika that modern technology has a solution for the slow beating or the misfiring of the sinus node of the heart.
A cardiac (electronic) pacemaker is inserted under the skin on the chest, below the collarbone of the patient, to take the job of the failing sinus node. Montemayor said that this is a self-contained battery-operated unit that sends electrical stimulation to the inner wall of the right ventricle of the heart to return the heart beat to normal.
Montemayor said that the pacemaker is a tiny device that has a microcomputer chip inside and detects if the heart rate is below the normal level. It fires electrical impulses to make the heart beat faster. The shell of the pacemaker is made of titanium and the whole device can last from 10 to 15 years.
Several advancements in the modern pacemakers include: wireless remote monitoring system, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-safe, longer battery life, models with single-chamber, transcatheter-delivered and leadless pacemaker system.
Montemayor assures that a person with cardiac pacemaker can live a normal and active life. And they need not worry about using their mobile phones and microwave oven.
Here’s a simple way of finding out if your heartbeat is slower than the normal. Press the index and middle fingers on the underside of the opposite wrist, below the thumb. Gently press it down until you feel the pulse. Count the beats for a minute (30 seconds) and multiply it by 2. For an accurate reading of your resting heart rate, sit quietly for at least 10 minutes before taking your pulse.
Montemayor holds clinics everyday except Wednesday at the Philippine Heart Center in the morning and Room 3210 of the National Kidney and Transplant Institute in the afternoon. Contact him at: 0918.700.6476.
Radyo Klinika is a KBP Golden Dove awardee for Best Radio Magazine Program in 2016. For queries and requests for interview, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or send your message to the Facebook Page: Radyo Klinika.