Keep Your Doctor Informed Of Your Resting Heart Rate
This article is not meant to diagnose or treat you. Its intended to help you understand one aspect of your health, your resting heart rate. This article is based on scientific research, but science is continually changing. Thus, this information is subject to change.
Everyone is different and has unique circumstances. Consult with your doctor about any changes in your health, diet, and exercise.
Read my full medical disclaimer here.
The Downward Slope: Your Metabolism Working Overtime
The Downward Slope is a sign that your metabolism is working overtime. Did you have a late meal, a late workout, or a glass of wine before bed? If your RHR starts high and reaches its lowest point right before you wake up, you may start the day feeling groggy.
If you regularly see this downward slope, it may be wise to stop and reassess your evening routine. For example, if you normally work out late at night, exercising 12 hours earlier can result in positive changes.
What Are The Best Places To Check Pulse
The best places to check your heart rate are your wrist, the side of your neck, the inside of your elbow, and the top of your foot .
How to Check Your Pulse Video
Watch Emily Reeve, the Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, show you how to check your pulse.
Heart Rate Monitors
You can track your heart rate with a wrist monitor like the popular LETSCOM Fitness Tracker .
Or, check out this detailed review of heart rate monitors to help you find the right one for you.
Heart rate monitors make it easier to track your heart rate consistently and learn which activities raise or lower your pulse the most.
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What Your Resting Heart Rate Says About You
If you want to know more about your cardiovascular health, weve got one big question for you: Do you know what your resting heart rate is?
Your resting heart rate can tell you a lot about your cardiovascular health and while some of what it says may seem scary at first, dont worry! There are ways to improve your cardiovascular health. At Tri-City Medical Center, we see patients with high resting heart rates lower theirs to healthier levels all the time.
Heres a little background on just what your heart might be trying to tell you.
Theres A Short In Your Hearts Electrical System
Your heart has its own electrical systema network of signals that help it beat correctlyand a slow heart rate might indicate an abnormality, says Taub. People who have an electrical problem may feel dizzy or lightheaded. Your doctor should be able to detect and pinpoint the malfunction with a simple EKG.
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Hrv Is Highly Individualized
Heart rate variability is an extremely sensitive metric. It fluctuates greatly throughout the day, from one day to the next, and from one person to another. People often wonder What should my HRV be? and How does my HRV compare to others?
Younger people tend to have higher HRV than older people, and males often have slightly higher HRV than females. Elite athletes usually have greater heart rate variability than the rest of us, and within that subset endurance athletes regularly have higher HRV than strength-based athletes. But, none of this is absolute. There are plenty of extremely fit and healthy people out there whose HRV is regularly in the 40s. What constitutes a healthy heart rate variability differs for everyone.
Better questions to ask are What is a good heart rate variability trend for me? and What can I do to make that happen?
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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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The Experts Say: Do More Cardio
The good news is that there are some easy steps anyone can take to calm the heart down. One of the most effective ways is to practice relaxation, deep breathing techniques and meditation. Many find it helpful to go for a walk in the nature or do mindful workouts. A warm shower or bath can also provide prompt assistance.
Sorry, wine-drinkers, but alcohol has the same dehydrating effect on the body as coffee.
Coffee-lovers should take note that stimulants like caffeine can cause dehydration, which in turn makes the heart work harder to stabilize the blood flow. Also alcohol delivers toxins into the body, making the heart work harder to process and remove them.
If youre looking for a way to lower your RHR in an effective and more permanent way, the experts advice is unanimous: do more cardio.
While strength training, too, makes the heart stronger, it is cardiovascular exercise which, over time, increases the hearts efficiency to regulate blood flow and distribute the oxygen which our bodies need for their systems.
Studies have found that if an aerobic exercise is performed for a long time, it will affect the parasympathetic nerve, thus increasing stroke volume and lowering the resting heart rate.
What Does A High Resting Heart Rate Mean
Just as a low RHR is a sign of a stronger heart, a high resting heart rate may signify a weaker heart muscle. Research indicates that in the long-term, an elevated RHR likely adds to the risk of mortality.
In the short-term, the following factors can increase resting heart rate:
- Strenuous exercise or overtraining
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Normal Resting Heart Rate
The American Heart Association states that a normal resting heart rate is usually between 60 and 100 beats per minute. However, for athletes and people who are active, this number may dip closer to 40 bpm.
Its also worth noting that the average resting heart rate for women tends to be a bit higher than for men. This is because females typically have slightly smaller hearts, which in turn produce less blood flow with each beat and must pump faster to reach the same output.
Additionally, there is often a slight increase in RHR with age.
How Do Heart Medications Affect Hrv
Following my first article on HRV, I was flooded with many questions about how heart medications affect HRV. In general, anything that slows your heart rate will probably increase your HRV. While this seems counterintuitive, let me explain.
With a slower heart rate, there is more time between each heartbeat. Thus, there is more time for beat to beat variability. In contrast, with a high heart rate, there is less time between each heartbeat so there are fewer opportunities for variability.
Thus, while HRV may decrease with a heart medication that slows your heart rate , no one knows what this really means. If you are on heart meds which slow your heart rate , I would suggest measuring your baseline medicated HRV number and then work to decrease this number over time by the 17 things discussed later in this article.
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Heart Rate Tips To Keep In Mind
- Start at your beginning. Before getting overly concerned about your heart rate, Martin says, its best to simply get moving. If you havent exercised much before, start where youre comfortable and gradually exert yourself more over time.
- Listen to your body. Your body provides other indicators of how hard its working that you need to consider along with heart rate. Pay attention to how hard youre breathing or sweating, and stop if you feel very uncomfortable, Martin says. Devices recording your heart rate have been known to malfunction, for exampleanother reason listening to your body is important.
- Remember that target heart rate is just a guide. Dont get overly fixated on numbers, Martin says. Ideally, they just push you to work a little harder.
How To Check Your Heart Rate
Checking your heart rate can be done anytime, anywhere and doesnt cost a dime. The first step is to find your pulse. You can try the wrist, inside of the elbow, side of your neck, or top of your foot. These are usually the easiest places to feel the pulse. To get the most accurate reading, put your finger over your pulse and count the number of beats in 60 seconds. If youre under 100, youre probably good to go. If youre higher than that, its time to lower your heart rate.
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What If My Heart Rate Is Too High
If your heart rate is above 85 to 93% of your maximum heart rate, youre overdoing it. Anything above your max is unsafe. But if you feel like youre straining, you need to slow down to let your heart recover, even if youre below your max.
You can do short bursts of exercise, such as sprints, in a high heart rate zone, but spend most of your time at a sustainable intensity.
If your heart rate is near or under the 50 percent of your target heart rate range, youre not working hard enough.
As a beginner or if youre out of condition, aim for the lower range of your target heart rate, about 50% of your max. Build up gradually to be comfortable at up to 85% of your max.
Also, make note of how you feel at each heart rate level. Because sometimes heart rate monitors fail. Notice the following:
- Hows your breathing?
- Are you sweating?
- Are you in pain?
Listen to your body and take a break if you need it, regardless of your heart rate zone.
Does Your Heart Have A Maximum Number Of Beats
The maximum number of lifetime heartbeats for humans is about 3 billion. But you wont die when you reach a set number of heartbeats. Heartbeats, however, are a marker of your metabolic rate. The faster your metabolic rate , the shorter your lifespan.
The total number of heartbeats per lifetime is amazingly similar across all mammals. For example, a mouse has a heart rate of 500 to 600 beats per minute but lives less than two years. At the other extreme, a Galápagos tortoise has a heart rate of about six beats per minute and has a life expectancy of 177 years.
Do the math and the heart of a mouse beats 100 times faster than that of a tortoise. But a tortoise lives 100 times longer than a mouse. Humans, however, have about 60 bpm and have about 3 billion heartbeats per lifetime.
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Average Resting Heart Rate Chart For Men & Women
What is a good resting heart rate by age and gender? The graphic below depicts the average resting heart rate by age for male and female WHOOP members between 20 and 50 years old.
the average resting heart rate for men wearing WHOOP is 55.2 bpm, and for women its 58.8 bpm.
Across all ages, the average resting heart rate for women wearing WHOOP is 58.8 bpm, and for men its 55.2 bpm.
Given that our members tend to be athletes and/or people who are particularly interested in monitoring their health and well-being, its no surprise that the normal resting heart rate for men and women on WHOOP is below what the AMA considers average.
How To Check Your Pulse And Heart Rate
Exercise is an important part of cancer prevention. You need 150minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorousexercise each week to help lower your cancer risk. Your heart rate canhelp you determine if the exercise youre doing is moderate orvigorous.
If youre working at 50 to 70% of your maximum heart rate, then thatexercise is considered moderate. If youre working at 70 to 85% ofyour heart rate then its vigorous exercise.
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What Affects Resting Heart Rate
- Temperature: When temperature and humidity rise, your heart needs to pump more blood. Whereby your pulse may increase up to 5 to 10 bpm.
- Body position: Your pulse is usually the same when youre resting, whether youre sitting or standing. However, it may go up for a couple of minutes after you sit or stand.
- Emotions: Being stressed, excited, or upset can raise your pulse.
- Body Size: If youre obese your heart rate could be higher than average as your heart needs to work harder to circulate throughout your body.
- Medications: Drugs that block your adrenaline can slow your heart rate. Conversely, high doses of thyroid medication can raise it.
- Water: Being dehydrated raises your RHR .
- Type 2 Diabetes is associated with resting heart rate .
Resting Heart Rate And Fitness
Your resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute while at complete rest. It is an indicator of your physical fitness. Your resting heart rate will decrease as your heart becomes stronger through aerobic exercise training.
A low resting heart rate indicates better fitness in people who are in athletic training or a workout program, but it can have other health significance for people who are not physically fit .
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Health And Other Applications Of Hrv
Beyond using heart rate variability as a fitness metric, it also has many applications when it comes to our overall health and well being. Tracking your HRV can help you gain a better understanding of:
- Risk of disease
For example, if your daily routine is unchanged but your HRV drops, it may be an indicator of increased stress or oncoming illness. Or, if youd like to see the effect a new diet has on your body, the impact will be noticeable in your heart rate variability.
When To See A Doctor
Most times, resting heart rate spikes are temporary and will normalize over time. In cases where the cause is one of the issues we touched on above, implementing the right lifestyle practices should have you back to a regular lower resting heart rate in no time.
However, in rare cases, your heart rate may spike and stay high for extended periods. In these cases, you should immediately consult with your doctor, as the heart rate variance could be a sign of a potentially dangerous underlying condition.
Note: You can measure your heart rate yourself using an electronic device like a FitBit, or by taking your pulse, counting the number of beats in 10 seconds, and multiplying by 6.
Depending on the severity of the issue, your doctor may recommend solutions like:
- Other lifestyle changes
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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.
Is Fitbit Resting Heart Rate Accurate
Compared with the ECG reading, wearable products varied in their accuracy. The Fitbit Charge performed the best at rest, measuring within 5 beats per minute of the ECG reading 95% of the time. The Basis Peak activity tracker was shown to be within 22.6 bpm of the ECG reading during the 10-minute resting test.
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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