Heart Block Adult

Overview

Causes

Heart block is caused by:

  • Underlying heart disease or certain heart defects
  • Certain medicines

Risk Factors

The risk of heart block increases with age. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • History of heart disease, such as a heart attack, heart failure, valve problems, and endocarditis
  • An inherited heart defect
  • Conditions that affect the heart such as sarcoidosis, rheumatic fever, or Lyme disease
  • Medicines such as beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, or digitalis

SymptomsandDiagnosis

Symptoms

Symptoms of heart block may be:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Chest pain
  • Problems breathing

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. A heart doctor may make the diagnosis.

Diagnosis is based on tests, such as:

  • ECG—tests electrical activity of the heart
  • Echocardiogram—imaging exam of the heart to look for structural heart disease

Treatments

Treatment

Treatment depends on the type of heart block. In general, treatment may not be needed for first-degree heart block.

If medicines are causing heart block, they will be stopped or changed.

Some second degree—and all third degree heart block—will need a pacemaker. A pacemaker is an implanted device to help the heart beat at a normal pace.

Underlying conditions will also need to be treated.

Prevention

Some heart block cannot be prevented. For others, the risk may be lowered by:

  • Treating heart problems
  • A heart healthy lifestyle that includes:
    • Regular exercise
    • A diet low in animal fat and rich in lean proteins, vegetables, and fruit
    • Reducing stress
    • Not smoking
    • Limiting or not using alcohol and caffeine
  • Not using medicines that can cause heart block

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.