Good News for People With Slow Pulses

Bradycardia, cardiovascular disease may not be linked

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh

(RxWiki News) Patients with an abnormally slow heart rate may have concerns about the potential for complications. But new evidence suggests these patients can rest a little easier.

A new study from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that bradycardia, or an abnormally slow heart rate, did not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

"For a large majority of people with a heart rate in the 40s or 50s who have no symptoms, the prognosis is very good," said lead study author Ajay Dharod, MD, a professor of internal medicine at Wake Forest, in a press release. "Our results should be reassuring for those diagnosed with asymptomatic bradycardia."

A normal heart rate falls between 60 and 100 beats per minute. By comparison, patients with bradycardia often have heart rates that dip into the 40s and 50s. This can cause symptoms such as dizziness, shortness of breath, fainting and chest pain.

For this study, researchers looked at 6,733 patients who participated in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). These patients included men and women ages 45 to 84, with an average age of 62 and without a history of cardiovascular disease. Some were taking heart medications, such as those used to treat high blood pressure.

After 10 years, no link between bradycardia and cardiovascular disease was found — regardless of whether the patient took heart medication.

Although an increased risk of cardiovascular disease was not found in this study, Dr. Dharod and team noted that a potential link between heart rate-modifying medications and an increased risk of death may exist.

"Bradycardia may be problematic in people who are taking medications that also slow their heart rate," Dr. Dharod said. "Further research is needed to determine whether this association is causally linked to heart rate or to the use of these drugs."

This study was published Jan. 19 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute funded this research.

Study author Dr. Nazarian disclosed ties to Biosense Webster Inc., Medtronic and CardioSolv, Inc. These companies make products used in the treatment of cardiovascular patients.

Review Date: 
January 19, 2016
Last Updated:
January 21, 2016