8 Signs You May Need a Pacemaker

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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  • The ideal resting heart rate for an adult ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute, depending on age and health. Usually, the lower the resting pulse rate, the better. However, a heart rate that’s too slow can cause complications. A slow heartbeat is one reason why you may need a pacemaker to monitor your heart rate and stimulate your heart to pump more quickly. While not all heart conditions or irregular heartbeats are treated with pacemakers, there are some signs to indicate who needs a pacemaker. If you experience any of these conditions, see your doctor for a checkup

  • 1
    You frequently get lightheaded or dizzy.
    Young woman with hand on head experiencing headache or fatigue

    Dizziness or feeling lightheaded can be a sign your heart isn’t beating properly, particularly if this occurs when you are being active. These signs can also be caused by low blood pressure, low blood sugar, hyperventilating, and other health issues as well. This feeling can also be a sign of low blood pressure if it occurs when you get up too quickly from a sitting or lying position.

  • 2
    You are extremely fatigued.
    Older man relaxing on couch with eyes closed

    If your heart can’t effectively pump blood through your body, you may feel extremely tired or fatigued even if you had a good night’s sleep or you aren’t doing anything particularly tiring. Fatigue can mean feeling like you just want to sleep or it could be that you don’t have the energy—the thought of moving or doing anything active is just too tiring.

  • 3
    You have palpitations, an intense pounding in your chest.
    Middle aged woman in park experience chest pain or heart palpitations

    Some irregular heart rhythms, called arrhythmias, are harmless. But that pounding in your chest could be a sign of a serious irregular heartbeat that might be controlled with a pacemaker. Arrhythmias can occur when you’re physically active, but also when you are quiet, sitting while watching TV, or lying in bed.

  • 4
    You fainted but don’t know why.
    Older woman on floor after fainting or fall

    Fainting can cause serious injury, especially if you fall in a dangerous area, you hit your head when you faint, or you faint while operating a vehicle. While fainting can occur because you’ve not eaten or you’ve had a sudden shock, it also can be the result of your heart beating too slowly or irregularly. That is particularly true if it happens when you’ve been standing around for long periods or you are being physically active.

  • 5
    You are short of breath or have difficulty breathing.
    Woman on exercise bike out of breath

    Shortness of breath or difficulty catching your breath can be a sign of several serious medical conditions, including pneumonia or asthma. But shortness of breath is also a symptom of heart disease or irregular heartbeats. Increasing shortness of breath while doing your usual activities, such as shopping, climbing stairs, or cleaning house could be a sign that your heart isn’t working as efficiently as it should.

  • 6
    You have been diagnosed with bradycardia.
    Older woman checking pulse in neck

    If you take your pulse and find your heart rate is slow from time to time, below 60 beats per minute, this doesn’t mean you have bradycardia. However, if your doctor has done tests and diagnosed you with bradycardia, you may need a pacemaker to maintain a healthy heart rhythm.

  • 7
    You take medications that slow down your heartbeat.

    Some medications, like digoxin for heart disease, slow down your heartbeat. Your doctor may recommend a pacemaker if you need higher doses of these medications and there is concern that your heart rate will go too low.

  • 8
    You have chest pain.
    Chest pain patient

    Arrhythmias don’t generally cause chest pain, but chest pain could be a sign of a heart attack or heart disease. Depending on the type of condition, it may be treatable with a pacemaker.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Sep 20
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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  5. You May Not Realize You Need a Pacemaker. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/do-you-need-a-pacemaker-to-speed-up-your-heart/
  6. Bradycardia. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bradycardia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355474