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Do You Need a Pacemaker to Speed Up Your Heart?

PacemakerWhen your heart beats too slowly, it needs help. Pacemakers — tiny implantable computers that speed up a slow heart rhythm — are the answer for millions of people, from newborns to 90-year-olds.

However, “many people have no idea that they may need a pacemaker,” says cardiologist Bruce Wilkoff, MD. “Fainting — the clearest symptom of a slow heart rhythm, or bradycardia — is often their first clue.”

A slow heart rhythm deprives your organs of oxygen and nutrients. You can get lightheaded or dizzy when you stand up or exert yourself. You become short of breath and easily fatigued. You can pass out.

“Or you simply don’t feel good because your body isn’t getting enough blood to supply your need to breathe, move and think,” says Dr. Wilkoff.

A problem with your sinus node
Your upper heart’s right filling chamber (atrium) has a sinus node that controls, or paces, using electrical impulses that keep the heart beating in sinus rhythm.

It quickly adjusts your heart rate, which indirectly adjusts blood pressure as your metabolic needs change (for example, during rest or exercise).

When the sinus node doesn’t function, because of sick sinus syndrome or scars in your atrial heart muscle, your heart slows down — sometimes stopping for several seconds.

A problem with your AV node