What Are the Causes of a Low Pulse Rate?

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By checking your pulse, you can determine your heart rate. It can be checked on your wrist or your neck (at your carotid artery). You should time your pulse for 10 seconds, then multiply the number of beats by 6 to measure your rate for 1 minute. Your normal resting heart rate should be somewhere between 60 and 90 beats per minute. It is good to have a low pulse rate, but when your pulse rate drops too low, it can result in a serious condition. The medical term for a low pulse rate is bradycardia, which is defined as less than 60 beats per minute.

Heart Rhythm

When your pulse is low, it means your heart rate is low, and that means your heart is having to work harder to pump your blood. Low pulse rate can be caused by a disruption of the electrical impulses that keep your heart in rhythm. If your blood pressure also drops, it could result in cardiac arrest. If you experience loss of energy, weakness and fainting, along with a low pulse rate, you should seek immediate medical assistance.

Hypothyroidism

Low thyroid function is called hypothyroidism. Low pulse rate is among the many symptoms of hypothyroidism. When your thyroid gland fails to produce enough of the hormones necessary for your normal bodily functions, your body slows down. Left untreated, hypothyroidism can result in more serious conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, depression and weight problems.

Hypothermia

Hypothermia is a condition in which your body temperature is lower than 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The result is impairment of the normal processes of your body, affecting functions including your vision, breathing, blood pressure, speech and muscles. Your heart rate slows, and therefore your pulse rate is low. Eventually, you may lose consciousness. You may be able to survive hypothermia for a few hours, but medical treatment is critical.

Malnutrition

Malnutrition occurs from lack of proper nutrition. The condition can cause problems related to healing and your ability to fight infections. As it becomes more severe, it can affect your breathing, cause kidney problems and result in heart conditions. Left untreated, it can become more serious and result in a low heart rate and weak pulse. Malnutrition can eventually lead to death.

Medications

Certain medications are meant to slow your heart rate, which lowers your pulse rate as well. Beta blockers, digitalis and calcium channel blockers are intended for this purpose. Sedatives and tranquilizers can also lower your heart rate. In some cases, a low pulse may be a side effect of a medication. If this occurs, you should consult your physician. You should never stop taking a medication before talking with your doctor.

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