DEAR DR. GOTT: I have a low pulse. What are the causes and the cure?
DEAR READER: The normal heart beats between 60 and 100 times per minute when at rest. Lower rates in young people and athletes can be an indication of being physically fit through a training regimen. Other causes of bradycardia (a low pulse) are attributed to coronary-artery disease, hypothyroidism, an electrolyte imbalance, the use of some medications, such as those taken for hypertension, or, rarely, endocarditis or infection.
Treatment depends on the cause. Without symptoms, your physician may choose to monitor you. If medication is involved, he or she may switch you to another brand. If there is damage to your heart’s electrical system, pacemaker insertion may be appropriate.
On the home front, limit your alcohol intake, discontinue smoking, eat a low-salt, healthful diet, and exercise as much as your physician allows or recommends. Above all — follow his or her advice regarding follow-up care.