Recent Blog Articles

Heart Health

Can a slow heartbeat be dangerous?

April 1, 2020

Ask the doctor

b84ab20e-9c4b-41ea-acb3-1bd6971f11a6Q. I'm in my 70s, and I get breathless when I climb stairs. Maybe that's normal at my age, but my doctor says the cause may be my slow heartbeat. Can a slow heartbeat be dangerous?

A. Yes, it could be. To explain why, let's begin with the basics. Your heart beats in order to pump blood around the body. The circulating blood brings the nutrition that every cell in your body needs, and it removes cellular waste material: blood brings the food and takes away the garbage. The effectiveness of the circulation depends on how much blood your heart pumps with each heartbeat and how many times per minute it beats. Even if each heartbeat pumps a lot of blood, if your heart doesn't pump often enough, your body won't get the blood it needs. And when you exert yourself, the body needs more blood.

To continue reading this article, you must log in.

Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.

  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »

I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.

Sign Me Up

Already a member? Login ».


As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Free Healthbeat Signup

Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.