Increase In Resting Heart Rate Is A Signal Worth Watching
- By Howard E. LeWine, MD, Chief Medical Editor, Harvard Health Publishing
When you sit quietly, your heart slips into the slower, steady pace known as your resting heart rate. An increase in your resting heart rate over time may be a signal of heart trouble ahead.
Your heart rate changes from minute to minute. It depends on whether you are standing up or lying down, moving around or sitting still, stressed or relaxed. Your resting heart rate, though, tends to be stable from day to day. The usual range for resting heart rate is anywhere between 60 and 90 beats per minute. Above 90 is considered high.
Many factors influence your resting heart rate. Genes play a role. Aging tends to speed it up. Regular exercise tends to slow your heart rate down. Stress, medications, and medical conditions also influence your resting heart rate.
Results of observational research studies support a link between health and heart rate. Researchers from Norway previously reported the results of a large study looking at changes in resting heart rate over 10 years. They recruited more than 29,000 people without any history or heart disease, high blood pressure, or any other type of cardiovascular disorder, and measured their resting heart rates when they started the study and again 10 years later. This study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
How to lower your resting heart rate
Proven Ways To Lower Your Resting Heart Rate
If your heart is racing as youre sitting reading this article, its possible your body is trying to tell you something. A high resting heart rate, or a heart rate of more than 100 beats per minute, means your heart is working extra hard to pump blood through your body. And, that extra effort could result in a wide range of negative effects on your overall health, including feelings of dizziness and fatigue and most seriously blood clots, heart failure and, in rare cases, sudden death.
Normal resting heart rate is anywhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute, and its simple to check how fast yours is beating. While idle, hold your pointer and middle finger between your bone and tendon on the thumb side on your wrist until you feel your pulse, and count the number of beats for a minute that is your resting heart rate.
Certain aspects of someones resting heart rate are directly connected to uncontrollable factors, such as age and genetics, however there are certain actions that be taken to help decrease heart rate and improve overall wellbeing for those whose resting heart rate is above normal.
Here are six proven ways to lower your resting heart rate:
5. Be Mindful of Your Breathing: On the topic of medication, another quick and easy way to lower your heart rate is to practice mindful breathing exercises. Inhale slowly for five seconds and then exhale slowly for 15 seconds. Try dedicating five minutes to this each day.
Improving Heart Health Naturally5
It is vital to keep your blood pressure under control because the higher your blood pressure, the greater your risk of heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure, kidney disease, impotence, loss of mental function, and dementia.
Whats more, dramatic increases in heart attack and stroke risk do not begin with readings of 140/90, the numbers that used to define high blood pressure. We now know that serious, life-threatening risks begin at much lower readings like 130/80. Thats why newly published U.S. guidelines state that high blood pressure is now defined as 130 and higher for systolic blood pressure , or 80 and higher for diastolic blood pressure .4
To lower your blood pressure, start with a heart-healthy, lifestyle-based approach like Pritikin.
Most people with high blood pressure, also called hypertension, can control their blood pressure without the need for medications by following the Pritikin Program. Those who still need pills usually require lower dosages and/or fewer pills.
Key guidelines we teach at the Pritikin health resort for lowering blood pressure naturally include:
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Improving Heart Health Naturally8
Triglycerides are fats in the blood. Immediately after eating a fatty meal, most triglycerides are temporarily packaged in particles called chylomicrons. If fact, blood drawn shortly after a fatty meal will appear creamy, like a strawberry milkshake. It takes hours for these fat-rich particles to be cleared from the bloodstream.
Research has found that high levels of chylomicrons nearly triple the risk of heart problems.12 Scientists refer to chylomicrons as silent but deadly because by the time we have a fasting blood test, their dirty work is done and theyre gone, and therefore undetected by the standard fasting blood lipid test.
The Pritikin Program has been proven13 to dramatically lower triglyceride levels, on average 33%, which means Pritikin living likely lowers chylomicron levels as well.
High triglyceride levels are considered an additional risk for cardiovascular disease, especially when part of a cluster of conditions called the metabolic syndrome, which includes:
- High triglycerides
- Belly fat
- Low HDL
- High blood pressure , and
- Fasting blood glucose of 100 or higher.
If you have at least three of the above five criteria, you have the metabolic syndrome.
Key lifestyle actions to lower triglyceride levels are:
- Lose excess weight
- Eat less sugar and other highly refined and processed carbohydrates, like white breads
- Eat more fish high in omega-3 fats
- Drink very little alcohol
- Exercise regularly
What Are The Risks For Chemical Cardioversion
Although many people have a successful chemical cardioversion, the procedure has certain risks. Your own risks may differ based on your age, the type of abnormal heart rhythm you have, and your other medical conditions. Ask your healthcare provider about the risks for you.
In rare cases, a chemical cardioversion can cause a new, more dangerous heart rhythm. If that happens, you will get medicines or a stronger electric shock to stop this rhythm. Some other risks are:
- Increased frequency of the original abnormal rhythm
- Other more dangerous abnormal heart rhythms
- Dislodged blood clot
A medicine called blood thinner may be given before and after the procedure to reduce your risk of blood clots especially if you have atrial fibrillation or flutter.
Each of the medicines used in chemical cardioversion has risks and possible side effects. Ask your healthcare provider about the risks of the medicines you will be using.
In some cases, the cardioversion may not restore a normal heart rhythm. Or, you might go back to your abnormal rhythm shortly after your cardioversion.
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Improving Your Heart Rate Permanently
Why Is Your Heart Pumping Slowly
Sometimes our heart rates can be slower than 60 bpm, and although your first instinct may be to feel alarmed, a slow heart rate doesnt necessarily indicate a problem with your heart. Beta blocker medications, for starters, could promote a slower heart rate. Additionally, athletes or those who are physically fit may have a slower resting heart rate simply because their heart is strong and is utilizing oxygen more effectively.
If you want to improve the strength and performance of your heart, the secret is to get your heart pumping.
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/10the Normal Heart Rate
Your pulse rate is defined as the number of times your heart beats per minute when you are resting. For an average adult, it is somewhere between 60 to 100 beats per minute. However, the number can vary from person to person depending on several factors like age, sex, health conditions, body size and medications. Our heart rate fluctuates throughout the day depending on our emotions, physical activity and temperature.
No Point In Comparing Your Heart Rate To Others
The resting heart rate of healthy adults is typically 50-80 beats per minute.
But if, for example, a woman has a resting heart rate of 50, that can mean either that she is very fit or that she naturally has a low resting heart rate. Or both.
So theres no point in comparing your own resting heart rate with others, Hallén says.
But as a goal for yourself, it can be useful, the researcher said.
If you exercise to improve your fitness, you can use your resting heart rate as a measure of whether your training is having an effect, Hallén says.
Because the heart is a muscle with a cavity inside. And when you train to improve your fitness, youre simply training your heart muscle.
So whats really going on if your resting heart rate has dropped?
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What Controls Heart Rate
Heart rate is controlled by the two branches of the autonomic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system . The sympathetic nervous system releases the hormones to accelerate the heart rate. The parasympathetic nervous system releases the hormone acetylcholine to slow the heart rate. Such factors as stress, caffeine, and excitement may temporarily accelerate your heart rate, while meditating or taking slow, deep breaths may help to slow your heart rate. Exercising for any duration will increase your heart rate and will remain elevated for as long as the exercise is continued. At the beginning of exercise, your body removes the parasympathetic stimulation, which enables the heart rate to gradually increase. As you exercise more strenuously, the sympathetic system kicks in to accelerate your heart rate even more. Regular participation in cardiovascular exercise over an extended period of time can decrease your resting heart rate by increasing the hearts size, the contractile strength and the length of time the heart fills with blood. The reduced heart rate results from an increase in activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, and perhaps from a decrease in activity of the sympathetic nervous system.
Resting Heart Rate Included In Fitness Calculator
Ulrik Wisløff, a professor at NTNU, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, has previously argued that good fitness is a very important goal for your health.
Fitness is one of the things that says the most about your health right now and in the future, Wisløff has said.
He and his colleagues have created a fitness calculator based on tests they have done on participants in a study of the population of Trøndelag County, called HUNT3.
The calculator includes resting heart rate, along with age, weight and height, among other factors.
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How To Think About Your Heart Rate
Heart rates not useless as a measure of health, but its not a very precise measure of health, Allison said. Your heart rate can be affected by many factors, including age, medication, stress levels, sleep, physical activity, diet and hydration.
Consider this example: A heart rate less than 60 is great if its achieved by being fit, Allison said. But it would be a problem if you have an underlying medical condition thats causing your heart to beat more slowly.
Similarly, he said, an elevated heart rate could be a triggered by something benign, such as excitement, or it could be your body signaling that you might be coming down with an illness, such as covid-19.
The experts advise talking to your primary care provider if your heart rate is consistently higher or lower than expected. But if dramatic changes in your heart rate are accompanied by symptoms such as palpitations, chest pain, fatigue, lightheadedness, dizziness or shortness of breath, you should seek medical care. The more persistent the symptoms are, the faster you need attention, Allison said.
One thing you shouldnt do: measure your heart rate against others. If youre comparing, Oh, my heart rates two beats lower than yours, so Im healthier. Im going to live longer well, no, Allison said.
Allison agreed. We have to remember that maintaining good health is about behaviors, he said, not taking tests.
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How Is Bradycardia Treated
Treatment will depend on the cause of your bradycardia. For example if you have hypothyroidism, treating it might bring your heart rate up to normal. People who have a slow heart rate because they are physically fit wont need any treatment. Some people might need medication, a pacemaker or some other form of treatment for the heart.
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When Heart Rate Or Rhythm Changes Are Minor
Many changes in heart rate or rhythm are minor and do not require medical treatment if you do not have other symptoms or a history of heart disease. Smoking, drinking alcohol or caffeine, or taking other stimulants such as diet pills or cough and cold medicines may cause your heart to beat faster or skip a beat. Your heart rate or rhythm can change when you are under stress or having pain. Your heart may beat faster when you have an illness or a fever. Hard physical exercise usually increases your heart rate, which can sometimes cause changes in your heart rhythm.
Dietary supplements, such as goldenseal, oleander, motherwort, or ephedra , may cause irregular heartbeats.
It is not uncommon for pregnant women to have minor heart rate or rhythm changes. These changes usually are not a cause for concern for women who do not have a history of heart disease.
Well-trained athletes usually have slow heart rates with occasional pauses in the normal rhythm. Evaluation is usually not needed unless other symptoms are present, such as lightheadedness or fainting , or there is a family history of heart problems.
Causes Of Supraventricular Tachycardia
An episode of supraventricular tachycardia occurs when abnormal electrical impulses suddenly start in the upper chambers of the heart, and override the heart’s natural rhythm.
SVT is sometimes called paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia . Paroxysm means a sudden temporary disturbance of heart rhythm.
PSVT is usually caused by a short circuit in the electrical system of the heart, which causes an electrical signal to travel rapidly and continuously around in a circle, forcing the heart to beat each time it completes the circuit.
Another type of SVT is called Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, where an abnormal electrical connection occurs between the atria and ventricles . People with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome are born with a strand of extra muscle tissue between these chambers. This produces a short circuit, which causes the fast heartbeat.
Resting Heart Rate And Health
A relatively low resting heart rate is considered healthy, while a high resting heart rate may increase the risk of various conditions.
A lower heart rate allows the heart to maintain a healthful rhythm and respond to routine stressors efficiently. These may include exercise, illness, and day-to-day activities.
Having a relatively low heart rate is a significant contribution to overall health. An abnormally high heart rate can lead to a variety of health risks and conditions.
Complications associated with a high heart rate include:
- low energy levels
Stress may cause a high heart rate.
Each heartbeat arises from specialized muscle cells called myocytes.
When these cells need more oxygen, as during exercise, the brain sends messages to the heart, causing myocytes to make stronger, more frequent pulses.
Everyone experiences sudden, temporary changes in their heart rate. They may be caused by:
Having a chronically high or abnormal heart rate is often a sign of an unhealthy lifestyle or an underlying medical condition.
Common long-term causes of a high heart rate include:
- lack of exercise
A Little Exercise Provides Great Health Benefits
Hallén does not doubt that good condition is good for your health, but believes it is important to include other goals.
For people who dont want to excel at a specific sport, it may be that getting enough exercise is a little more important than being super fit, Hallén said.
With that in mind, you dont have to train so hard.
To increase your heart size, you probably need to increase your exercise level to a certain intensity, but to improve your health, it is enough to be active, without putting too great of a demand on your body in terms of the intensity, Hallén said.
He cites a Norwegian School of Sports Science study that shows that even a few small steps per day can prolong life.
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A Quarter Of A Litre Of Oxygen
Exercise makes the heart bigger, more elastic, and means there is more blood in your body, which means that your heart pumps more blood per beat, says Hallén.
The blood that enters the heart from the lungs contains oxygen. And a body at rest needs a certain amount of oxygen to keep going.
Hallén gives this example for a person who is completely at rest:
A body that weighs 75 kilos requires around a quarter of a litre of oxygen per minute to keep vital processes going.
That means the heart has to pump out about five litres of blood per minute for the body to get enough oxygen, Hallén says.
And then there are two variables that count: The first is how much blood the heart manages to pump into the body per beat. The second is how often the heart beats, which is your resting pulse.
So if you have a larger heart that pumps out more blood per beat, your heart does not need to beat as often.
Your resting heart rate goes down.