How Is Resting Heart Rate Calculated
Measuring your resting heart rate is as easy as checking your pulse, which can be felt on the side of your neck or the underside of your wrist .
While sitting down and once you feel your pulse count the number of beats you feel over the span of 30 seconds . Multiply this number by two to calculate your heart beats per minute.
“To get an accurate representation of your resting heart rate, repeat this process a few times and over the course of a few days,” adds Dr. Chebrolu.
She also advises against checking your heart rate immediately after a stressful event, strenuous activity or consuming caffeine, which can lead to temporary elevation in your heart rate.
Additionally, most wearable fitness trackers and smart watches provide insights into your heart rate. And since these devices collect measurements throughout the day, they’re a simple way to effortlessly monitor your average resting heart rate.
“The heart rate measurements taken by wearable devices may not be as reliable as checking your pulse by hand, but they can help you track general trends and spot changes in your resting heart rate,” says Dr. Chebrolu.
And while some smartwatches now come with an ECG feature that can help monitor for heart rhythm issues, these devices alone cannot detect a life-threatening arrhythmia, such as atrial fibrillation .
Why Could A Low Heart Rate Be Bad In Some Situations
The heart needs to pump out a certain amount of blood to provide the body with the blood it needs to function. The amount of blood pumped is known as cardiac output and is usually defined as liters per minute. Heart rate of course affects this output. In some patients a low heart rate can lead to a low output and cause symptoms such as dizziness, shortness of breath and fatigue. These symptoms are associated with low output heart failure. In other patients a low heart rate causes no effect whatsoever as the heart simply pumps out more blood with each beat to compensate.
What Your Heart Rate Can And Cant Tell You About Your Health
Before the rise in popularity of fitness trackers and smartwatches, cardiologist Sadiya Khan said patients rarely came in with questions about why their heart rates seemed high or low. But the growing interest in wearable devices, which some early research suggests can even detect coronavirus symptoms, means many people have a trove of real-time health information at their fingertips.
I see a lot more people asking about heart rate because you can track it, you can monitor it, you can make pretty graphs on your Apple Watch, said Khan, an assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern Universitys Feinberg School of Medicine.
But while your heart rate can be a key indicator of your health, Khan and other experts emphasized that it is just one piece of the puzzle.
Its a place to start, said Seth Martin, a cardiologist and associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins. If thats your entry into thinking about ones health, then thats great. But your heart rate cant tell you everything you need to know about your health, he added, and it is important not to fixate on that one measure.
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Low Oxygen Levels: How Low Is Too Low And Should You Worry
Low oxygen levels will rob you of your eye sight, short term memory, and your energy. Eventually low oxygen levels will weaken your heart muscle.
Heart Failure IS -> Progressive weakening of your heart muscle!
The world is facing an epidemic of heart failure! This ONE health crisis will rob more productive work years from Americans than any other.
Checking In On Your Device
Modern pacemakers are built to last. Still, your pacemaker should be checked periodically to assess the battery and find out how the wires are working. Be sure to keep your pacemaker checkup appointments. At such appointments:
- Your doctor will make sure your medications are working and that youre taking them properly.
- You can ask questions and voice any concerns you may have about living with your pacemaker. Make sure you and your caregiver understand what your doctor says. Its a good idea to take notes.
- Your doctor will use a special analyzer to reveal the batterys strength. This diagnostic tool can reveal a weak battery before you notice any changes.
Eventually, the battery may need to be replaced in a surgical procedure. This replacement procedure is less involved than the original surgery to implant the pacemaker. Your doctor can tell you about the procedure when the time comes.
When To Worry About Low Heart Rate
Our heartbeat is one of our most essential biomarkers. One of the most significant statements to the significance of this bodily function is its recognition world over as one of the principal medical markers for the presence of life.
However, the importance of your heartbeat extends beyond acting as a notification that you are still alive.
The heartbeat is a rhythmic contraction of the cardiac muscles. These muscles then control the pumping of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood around your body. Consequently, the rate of your heartbeats can be a direct measure of the function and overall health of the organ.
Furthermore, in the multifaceted and interconnected system that is the body, a variance in heart rate levels can be an indicator for a host of conditions, including the adrenaline rush from exercise or fear, hormonal imbalances, psychological issues, or other underlying medical problems.
With heart rate, when you are at rest, less is often always better. Generally, a lower resting heart rate indicates that the organ is performing more efficiently than average. Lower heart rates are usually standard among well-trained athletes and people with high cardiovascular fitness levels.
A lower rate implies that your heart does not have to overexert itself to provide the rest of your body with the minimum required amount of oxygenated blood.
What Is Low Heart Rate
The medical definition of bradycardia is a heart rate that is slower than 60 beats per minute
Note: According to the American Heart Association, for a healthy person, your heart rate should fall between a range of 60-100 beats per minute when you are resting.
However, for most people, the figure should be closer to 60 than 100, as a score of 90 or above is still a mild cause for concern. Heart rate scores that are slightly lower than the 60 BPM low point are typically acceptable too.
In most cases, however, bradycardia is rarely ever a cause for concern. Plus, what your general practitioner will consider too low varies depending on factors like your physical conditions and your age.
Furthermore, with heart rate, lower is better, and it is quite common for healthy people to post sub-60 BPM scores. Nevertheless, when you get to the sub-50 range, things can get quite iffy as a heart rate that low can stem from a host of other underlying conditions.
So, should you worry about a low heart rate reading? It depends. It depends on the underlying factor that is causing the attenuation of your BPM.
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What Do My Heart Rate Numbers Mean
Your resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats each minute when youre not active. The normal range is between 50 and 100 beats per minute. If your resting heart rate is above 100, its called tachycardia below 60, and its called bradycardia. Increasingly, experts pin an ideal resting heart rate at between 50 to 70 beats per minute.
If you want to find out your resting heart rate, pick a time when youre not active, find your pulse, count how many times it beats in 30 seconds, and then double that number. You may want to check it several times throughout the day, or over a week, to average out the number and to look for any irregularities.
Resting heart rates can change from person to person and throughout the day, influenced by everything from your mood to your environment. It rises when youre excited or anxious, and sometimes in response to smoking cigarettes or drinking coffee. More athletic people tend to have lower heart rates.
New Findings Focus On Diastolic Blood Pressurethe Second Number In Your Blood Pressure Reading
Of the two numbers that make up your blood pressure reading, the first one typically gets more attention. That’s because as people age, their arteries lose their elasticity, and the inner walls are more likely to accumulate cholesterol-laden plaque. These factors tend to raise systolic blood pressure, a measure of the pressure inside the arteries when the heart contracts to pump blood throughout the body.
Current guidelines suggest that most people should aim for a systolic blood pressure reading of 140 millimeters of mercury or lower. But last year, a widely publicized clinical trial suggested that a target of 120 mm Hg could further reduce the dangers associated with high blood pressure .
Yet reaching that lower target required an average of three blood pressure medications, which resulted in more side effects. Now, two recent observational studies highlight some concerns about blood pressure that’s too low, particularly with regard to diastolic blood pressure. Diastolic blood pressure represents the pressure between beats when the heart relaxes.
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Potential Causes Of Low Heart Rate
Generally, a slower heart rate when you are at rest is a sign of good health. Bradycardia can result from several positive or neutral causes that shouldnt warrant any worry. Some of these include:
- High fitness levels
- The impact of regular meditative breathing
- A genetic predisposition for a slower heart rate
- The side effect of beta-blockers and other heart-related medications
Do You Know: Bradycardia that stems from the use of beta-blockers and other heart-related medication, is often reversible.
Suppose your heart rate is falling to dangerous levels because of the medication and experiencing symptoms like fatigue, weakness, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, and dizziness. In that case, you should consider stopping the medicine immediately until you consult with your doctor.
In most cases, stopping the medication will immediately reverse the symptoms.
However, in other cases, bradycardia may stem from other severe, more worrying, and potentially more harmful causes like:
- Hypothyroidism and other hormonal and metabolic problems
- Heart attacks
- Sick sinus syndrome, congestive cardiomyopathy, node damage, and other forms of heart disease
In all of these severe cases above, a low heart rate is a cause for concern, as it can signal potentially dangerous or even fatal conditions that require immediate attention. So, how can you tell whether your low heart rate stems from a positive, unthreatening source or a more critical, potentially life-threatening condition?
Getting On With Your Life
Soon after your surgery, you may hardly think about your pacemaker as you go about your day. Just be sure to remember your doctors recommendations about daily activities. Bear in mind:
- Be physically active. Try to do what you enjoy or what you feel up to each day. Take a short walk, or simply move your arms and legs to aid blood circulation.
- Dont overdo it. Quit before you get tired. The right amount of activity should make you feel better, not worse.
- Feel free to take baths and showers. Your pacemaker is completely protected against contact with water.
- Car, train or airplane trips should pose no danger.
- Stay away from magnets and strong electrical fields. Learn more about how devices can interfere with ICDs and pacemakers.
- Tell your other doctors, dentists, nurses, medical technicians and hospital staff members that you have a pacemaker.
- People with pacemakers can continue their usual sexual activity.
- Remember your pacemaker when you arrive at the airport or other public places with security screening. Metal detectors wont damage your pacemaker, but they may detect the metal in your device. At the airport, let the TSA agent know that you have a pacemaker. You may need to undergo a separate security procedure, such as screening with a hand wand.
Download a free pacemaker wallet ID card. Showing it to personnel at places with metal detectors or other security screening devices may save you some inconvenience.
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Low Diastolic Pressure: No Symptoms
“When your systolic blood pressure gets too low, it can manifest as lightheadedness, fainting, and weakness. But low diastolic pressure by itself doesn’t have any symptoms,” says Dr. Paul Conlin, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of medicine at the VA Boston Healthcare System.
One of the new studies, which analyzed the medical records of more than 11,000 adults over a period of three decades, found that people who had low diastolic blood pressure were twice as likely to have subtle evidence of heart damage compared with people whose diastolic blood pressure was 80 to 89 mm Hg. Low diastolic values were also linked to a higher risk of heart disease and death from any cause. The findings appeared in the Aug. 30, 2016, Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Another study, published in The Lancet, involved more than 22,000 people with heart disease, whom researchers grouped according to their blood pressure readings. People with well-controlled blood pressure values were considered the reference group.
Not surprisingly, people with high systolic blood pressure were more likely to experience heart attacks or strokes, be hospitalized with heart failure, or to die compared with people in the reference group. But the same was true for heart attacks, heart failure, and death in people with low blood pressure .
How Will Your Doctor Find And Treat Bradycardia
Your doctor will ask about your usual activities and conduct a physical exam.
He or she may use an electrocardiogram to measure the electrical signals in your heart . A wearable, 24-hour monitor can tell your doctor how your heart performs over time.
Once your doctor decides you need treatment, he or she will try to rule out medications or other pre-existing conditions as causes. Sometimes changing medications or similar strategies can solve the problem.
If not, implanting a pacemaker via minimally invasive surgery is the only option to speed up your heart rate, Dr. Baez-Escudero says.
He notes that bradycardia isnt often an emergency, so doctors have time to choose the right treatment.
In general, bradycardia allows time for us to evaluate the condition and rule out if any other condition is responsible, he says. Then, we can adjust medications or take other steps if we need to.
How Is Bradycardia Diagnosed
When you see your doctor, they will measure your heart rate. Your heart rate might have returned to normal, so its a good idea to keep a record of when you experience bradycardia or related symptoms.
Your doctor will also need to work out the cause of your bradycardia. They will ask about your symptoms and your medical and family health history, and will examine you. Tests, such as an electrocardiogram, or ECG, might be done to check your heart. Depending on what is found, you might need further tests such as a stress test.
Treatment Of Low Heart Rate
In patients with confirmed or suspected slow heart rate, the underlying possible causes such as those outlined above need to be evaluated carefully. Its especially important to review the medication list carefully and stop any potentially offending agents. Blood tests such as thyroid function studies may be performed.
An EKG is performed to see if there is just a slow heart rate or any evidence of heart block. Sometimes a monitor is worn to see the heart rate over time. Some people with a slow heart rate are unable to get their heart rate up with exercise known as chronotropic incompetence this can be diagnosed with exercise testing. An echocardiogram may be performed to evaluate the heart structure and function.
What we do with a slow heart rate really depends on how bad the symptoms are. Its key to make sure the symptoms are related to the slow heart rate and that possible causes are identified and treated. The main indication for a patient without symptoms to get a pacemaker would be advanced heart block, long pauses in the heartbeat or rhythms that have the potential to lead to instability.
In patients that are symptomatic, and in whom underlying reversible causes have been ruled out, insertion of a pacemaker may be required. The choice of pacemaker for those with a low heart rate is different in different people and depends upon the level of block in the heart.
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What Is Bradycardia How To Know If Your Heart Rate Is Too Low
- Bradycardia is when your resting heart rate is slower than normal.
- Well-trained athletes can have a resting heart rate as low as 40 or 50 bpm, and when caused by exercise, bradycardia is considered healthy.
- However, for others with a resting heart rate this low, bradycardia can be dangerous and should be checked out by a doctor.
- This article was reviewed by John Osborne, MD, PhD, and the Director of Cardiology for Dallas-based State of the Heart Cardiology.
- This story is part of Insider’s guide to Heart Disease.
Bradycardia, or a heart rate that is too slow, can be a serious condition, especially if the heart is not pumping enough oxygen-rich blood throughout the body.
Here’s what medical experts consider to be a low heart rate, how to know if you have bradycardia, and the most common ways to treat it.