Why Is It Important To Get It Checked
Often an irregular pulse is harmless. However, it’s important to get it checked by a health professional, because sometimes it’s a sign of a heart condition.
The most common kind of heart rhythm condition is atrial fibrillation , which can put you at greater risk of having a stroke. Fortunately, if you have AF, there’s medication you can take to help reduce this stroke risk.
Your doctor can do a simple test called an ECG to further check your irregular pulse.
How To Determine Your Ideal Heart Rate
As you can tell, your ideal heart rate is dependent on many factors, so determining an ideal can take practice and self-monitoring. Mehta has this advice: It is important to know that there is no heart rate that is necessarily too low or too high with exertion. I would base these levels more on how an individual feels. For example, when I exert myself too much, my heart rate is 180 bpm, and I feel very short of breath. In this case, training to an HR of 180 appears too high, whereas, for others, it can be normal.;
With that said, there are methods of determining your ideal heart rate based on the maximal heart rate for your age. A simple calculation is 220 minus your age equals maximal heart rate. Two other more complicated, however perhaps more accurate formulas are:
Tanakas Formula :
208 minus = maximum heart rate
Gulatis Formula :
206 minus = maximum heart rate
This number is purely hypothetical since many people cannot attain their maximal heart rate because doing so is simply too uncomfortable. High-level athletes can maintain and even surpass their theoretical maximal heart rates, says Burns.
Target Heart Rate And Estimated Maximum Heart Rate
For moderate-intensity physical activity, your target heart rate should be between 64% and 76%1,2 of your maximum heart rate. You can estimate your maximum heart rate based on your age. To estimate your maximum age-related heart rate, subtract your age from 220. For example, for a 50-year-old person, the estimated maximum age-related heart rate would be calculated as 220 50 years = 170 beats per minute . The 64% and 76% levels would be:
- 64% level: 170 x 0.64 = 109 bpm, and
- 76% level: 170 x 0.76 = 129 bpm
This shows that moderate-intensity physical activity for a 50-year-old person will require that the heart rate remains between 109 and 129 bpm during physical activity.
For vigorous-intensity physical activity, your target heart rate should be between 77% and 93%1,2 of your maximum heart rate. To figure out this range, follow the same formula used above, except change 64 and 76% to 77 and 93%. For example, for a 35-year-old person, the estimated maximum age-related heart rate would be calculated as 220 35 years = 185 beats per minute . The 77% and 93% levels would be:
- 77% level: 185 x 0.77 = 142 bpm, and
- 93% level: 185 x 0.93 = 172 bpm
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What Affects Heart Rate
Many biological factors can affect your heart rate including your age, body size and current body position. If you have a fever or slept poorly, you might notice a higher heart rate.
Your fitness level is another factor to consider. People who are more active may have lower resting heart rates. An athletes resting heart rate might even go below 50 BPM.
Psychological factors, such as your emotional state, can also influence your BPM. If youre feeling stressed out, youll notice your heart rate increase.
Smoking will also increase your heart rate. And thats just one of many ways smoking can have a negative effect on your overall health.
Some medications can influence how fast your heart beats. Substances with caffeine, including coffee and tea, can elevate your heart rate as well.
When To See A Doctor
If you or a loved one notices mild to medium symptoms, go to a doctor quickly.
If you or a loved one faints, has chest pains or trouble breathing, call 911.
Tiredness, trouble concentrating, or breathing harder may just seem like part of growing older. But sometimes itâs more than that.
Be sure to tell your doctor about all your symptoms. If you wear out more easily now than you did a month or year ago, let them know.
How Do I Take My Heart Rate
There are a few places on your body where itâs easier to take your pulse:
- The insides of your wrists
- The insides of your elbows
- The sides of your neck
- The tops of your feet
Put the tips of your index and middle fingers on your skin. Press lightly until you feel the blood pulsing beneath your fingers. You may need to move your fingers around until you feel it.
Count the beats you feel for 10 seconds. Multiply this number by six to get your heart rate per minute
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 .
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Tachycardia: How High Is Too High
“A resting heart rate that is frequently over 110 or occasionally over 140 can lead to heart damage or heart failure and may need to be treated,” Dr. Santucci says. According to the American Heart Association, the medical term for a heart rate above 100 is tachycardia. Symptoms may include:
- Shortness of breath.
Although the range of normal for a resting and sleeping heart rate is wide, the Mayo Clinic says to let your doctor know if your resting heart rate is consistently above 100, especially if you have any symptoms of tachycardia.
What Is Your Pulse
When your heart beats it pushes blood around your body. This heart beat can be felt as your ‘pulse’ on your wrist or neck.;
Your pulse is measured by counting the number of times your heart beats in one minute. For example, if your heart contracts 72 times in one minute, your pulse would be 72 beats per minute . This is also called your heart rate.;
A normal pulse beats in a steady, regular rhythm. However, in some people this rhythm is uneven, or ‘jumps about’. This is known as an irregular pulse.
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Reality Check: It Matters Why Your Heart Rate Is Low
As mentioned earlier, a slower heart rate generally means that fewer nutrients and less oxygen are being delivered throughout your body. At least, all other factors being equal, thats what it would meanbut all other factors are never really equal.
In order to know how well your blood is delivering nutrients throughout your body, you need to know several things. First, you need your heart rate, obviously. Second, you need to know your stroke volumehow much blood gets pumped through your heart per heartbeat. A higher stroke volume means that high blood flow can be maintained at a relatively low heart rate. Unfortunately, stroke volume is difficult to measure non-invasively, so it isnt typically measured in routine check-ups unless the patient has heart disease.
Third, you want to know how many red blood cells you have. The technical term for this is hematocritthe percentage of your blood volume that consists of red blood cells. A typical hematocrit level is 47 percent plus or minus 5 percent for men and 42 percent plus or minus 5 percent for women. A lower hematocrit would mean that your heart would need to pump more blood to oxygenate the body. A high hematocrit would mean that you can safely live with a lower heart rate, but it would also mean that your blood is getting excessively thick, which can cause problems of its own.
If Youre Out For A Training Run
Sure, you may get competitive with your training buddies or internet friends on Strava, but ultimately, workouts arent made to be won or lost. Thats what race day is for.
So, if you find yourself running with an elevated heart rate for too long, you should absolutely slow down, ease up, walk for a bit, or take a few moments to regain your composure and your breath.
While it may seem counterintuitive, working harder isnt always better.
From a health perspective, in the short term, Im not too concerned that an athlete will work so hard that there are any dangers to an overly elevated heart rate, says exercise physiologist and City Coach Multisport owner Jonathan Cane. But long, high-intensity work may increase that risk.
Im a big believer in working hard on hard days, but also that the counterpoint of really easy days is important, says Cane. Ideally, each workout should have a purpose. If its a recovery day, by all means, take it easy. If its a day where your goal is to increase your threshold, then push your heart rate to that area. If its a VO2 max kind of day, by all means work;really;hard and dont be deterred by a high heart rate.
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Why Does Bradycardia Happen
The most common cause for bradycardia is a malfunction in the hearts natural pacemaker, the sinus node. It controls how quickly the top and bottom heart chambers pump blood through the body. Another cause is atrioventricular block , in which the top and bottom chambers dont communicate well and the heart rate drops as a result.
Its like having virtual electrical cables and wires inside the heart, Dr. Baez-Escudero says. And, they deteriorate as we age. Common medications that are used in older populations can also often make bradycardia more significant.
In fact, age is the most common risk factor for developing bradycardia. The condition is most common among men and women over age 65.
Illness or other conditions also may prompt it. These other causes;include:
- Heart attacks due to coronary artery disease.
- Bacterial;infection;in the blood that attacks the heart.
- Inflammation of the heart muscle.
- Low thyroid function.
- Too much potassium in the blood.
- Certain medications, including;beta blockers;and;antiarrhythmics.
Congenital heart defects, diabetes or long-standing high blood pressure all may make bradycardia more likely, Dr. Baez-Escudero says.
Normal Resting Heart Rate For Kids
Childrens heart rates are normally faster than those of adults. According to Cleveland Clinic, the normal resting heart rate for a child aged six to 15 is between 70 to 100 beats per minute.
Many factors can affect your resting heart rate, including your level of physical activity. In fact, highly trained athletes can have a resting heart rate of around 40 beats per minute!
Other factors that can affect resting heart rate include:
- Age. You may find that your resting heart rate decreases as you get older.
- Temperature. Your heart rate may increase slightly when youre exposed to hot temperatures.
- Medication side effects. For example, medications such as beta-blockers can lower your resting heart rate.
- Emotions. If youre anxious or excited, your heart rate may increase.
- Weight. People who are obese may have a higher resting heart rate. This is because the heart has to work harder to supply the body with blood.
- Body positioning. Heart rate can increase temporarily when you move from a sitting to a standing position
- Smoking. Smokers tend to have a higher resting heart rate. Quitting smoking can help bring it back down.
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How To Calculate Resting Heart Rate
To check your normal resting heart rate, you can use a heart rate monitor, or use this 10-second pulse count method:
- Take your pulse at either the base of your thumb on the palm side of your wrist, or the base of your neck on either side of your windpipe.
- Using two or three fingers, press lightly on your skin until you can feel your blood moving underneath.
- Count the beats for 10 seconds, then multiply that number by six.
What Your Heart Rate Is Telling You
Your pulse, both at rest and during exercise, can reveal your risk for heart attack and your aerobic capacity.
Your grandmother may have referred to your heart as “your ticker,” but that nickname has proved to be a misnomer. A healthy heart doesn’t beat with the regularity of clockwork. It speeds up and slows down to accommodate your changing need for oxygen as your activities vary throughout the day. What is a “normal” heart rate varies from person to person. However, an unusually high resting heart rate or low maximum heart rate may signify an increased risk of heart attack and death.
One simple thing people can do is to check their resting heart rate. It’s a fairly easy to do and having the information can help down the road. It’s a good idea to take your pulse occasionally to get a sense of what’s normal for you and to identify unusual changes in rate or regularity that may warrant medical attention.
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The Bottom Line: Youre Probably Ok But
You’re probably OK, but it’s worth talking to your doctor.
To recap: youre probably fine if your resting heart rate is over 50, or 40 if youre an athlete. Youre also probably fine if you dont feel any of the symptoms of bradycardia, like dizziness, fatigue, sweating, or fainting.
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But if youre close to those values and still worried, its worth talking to your doctor and getting a few simple tests, including hematocrit, blood oxygen content, electrolyte levels, heart rate variability, and blood pressure.
If youre a health nut, its easy to obsess over isolated measures like your heart rate. The bottom line is, if your low heart rate is a problem, youll probably be feeling it. If youre exercising regularly and have a low heart rate, but you feel good and every other measure of cardiac health looks good, youre fine.
Average Sleeping Heart Rate By Age
The resting heart rate for most healthy adults should fall between the 60-100 beat per minute range, with the scores closer to 60bpm than a 100.
We highlighted the term adults because, for children, it is a whole different ball game.
Kids post relatively higher heart rate figures during the early stages of their development, including those for resting heart rate. However, these figures gradually begin to slow down until they reach adolescence, by which their RHR would have typically normalized to the 60-100bpm range.
Consequently, your age is one of the most substantial factors influencing what healthcare practitioners consider the normal sleeping heart rate for you.
Based on data from the National Institutes of Health, here is a list of the typical sleeping heart rate by age.
|Over 10 years||60-100|
Note: Seasoned athletes and other people that regularly participate in rigorous exercises and tasks typically post low RHR scores of around 40-60bpm. Although these figures fall below the recommended normal rate, in well-trained athletes, this is a sign of good health.
In the early stages of their development, healthy children typically have significantly higher heart rates, even at rest.
This significant skewing from the mean stems from the fact that babies have considerably higher rates of metabolism, which places more strain on the heart and warrants a faster bpm and a more active circulatory system.
Low Resting Heart Rate;
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What To Expect At The Doctors
Your doctor may use a variety of diagnostic tools to help diagnose your condition, including:
- Electrocardiogram. Also referred to as an ECG or EKG, this diagnostic tool uses small electrodes to record the electrical activity of your heart. Your doctor can use the information collected to determine if heart abnormalities are contributing to your condition.
- Imaging tests. Imaging can be used to assess if there are any structural abnormalities in your heart that may be contributing to your condition. Possible imaging tests can include echocardiogram, CT scan, and MRI scan.
- Laboratory tests. Your doctor may order blood tests to determine if your condition is caused by something such as an electrolyte imbalance or thyroid disease.
Once a diagnosis is made, your doctor will work with you to develop a plan to treat and manage your condition.
Depending on the findings from the diagnostic tests, your doctor may refer you to a cardiologist. A cardiologist specializes in treating and preventing diseases of the heart and circulatory system.