How To Improve Your Resting Heart Rate
Your heart is a muscle, not unlike your quads, biceps, and abs. And just as you can train those muscles to improve their strength, so too can you train your heart to improve its function.
Like every other muscle in your body, your heart will adapt to the physical stress of exercise by becoming stronger, allowing it to pump more blood with each beat, says Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S., senior fitness and nutrition content manager for Openfit. That, in turn, can lower your resting heart rate. Both aerobic and anaerobic exercises can strengthen the heart, but aerobic exercise has the edge when it comes to lowering your resting heart rate, because such exercise typically keeps your heart working hard for longer.
Technically speaking, aerobic exercise is any activity for which the body uses oxygen to produce energy . But when it comes to strengthening the heart, the best aerobic exercises are those vigorous enough to really challenge it. Think running versus jogging or walking, says Thieme.
Research shows that high-intensity interval training can also have a strong effect on resting heart rate, as it taxes both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. But youll see the greatest effect by keeping your heart rate below about 85 percent of your maximum while exercising, says Thieme. Other ways to lower it are reducing your stress level and improving the quantity and quality of your sleep.
How Do I Check My Resting Heart Rate
To check your heart rate:
- Sit down and rest for 5 minutes.
- Turn your wrist so your palm is facing up.
- Feel for a pulse at thumb side of your wrist.
- Once you feel it, count how many times you feel a beat in 30 seconds. Then double it.
If you cant find your pulse at your wrist, put 2 fingers on the side of your neck, next to the windpipe.
If you still cant find a pulse, ask someone else to feel it for you.
Atrial Or Supraventricular Tachycardia
Atrial or supraventricular tachycardia is a fast heart rate that starts in the upper chambers of the heart. Some forms of this particular tachycardia are paroxysmal atrial tachycardia or paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia .
With atrial or supraventricular tachycardia, electrical signals in the hearts upper chambers fire abnormally. This interferes with electrical impulses coming from the sinoatrial node, the hearts natural pacemaker.
The disruption results in a faster than normal heart rate. This rapid heartbeat keeps the hearts chambers from filling completely between contractions, which compromises blood flow to the rest of the body.
A profile for atrial or SVT
In general, those most likely to have atrial or supraventricular tachycardia are:
- Women, to a greater degree than men
- Anxious young people
In extreme cases, those suffering with atrial or SVT may also experience:
Treatment for Atrial or SVT
If you have atrial or SVT, its possible that you wont need treatment.
But if the episodes are prolonged, or recur often, your doctor may recommend treatment, including:
- Some medicinal and street drugs
Other, less common causes may include:
Approach to treatment
What Is Maximum Heart Rate
The maximum heart rate is the highest heart rate achieved during maximal exercise. One simple method to calculate your predicted maximum heart rate, uses this formula:
220 – your age = predicted maximum heart rate
Example: a 40-year-old’s predicted maximum heart rate is 180 beats/minute.
There are other formulas that take into account the variations in maximal heart rate with age and gender. If you are interested in learning more about these more accurate but slightly more complicated formulas please see these resources:
- Gellish RL, Goslin BR, Olson RE, McDonald A, Russi GD, Moudgil VK. Longitudinal modeling of the relationship between age and maximal heart rate. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007 May 39:822-9. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17468581
- Gulati M, Shaw LJ, Thisted RA, Black HR, Bairey Merz CN, Arnsdorf MF. Heart rate response to exercise stress testing in asymptomatic women: the st. James women take heart project. Circulation. 2010 Jul 13 122:130-7. Epub 2010 Jun 28. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20585008
Your actual maximum heart rate is most accurately determined by a medically supervised maximal graded exercise test.
Please note that some medications and medical conditions may affect your heart rate. If you are taking medications or have a medical condition , always ask your doctor if your maximum heart rate/target heart rate will be affected. If so, your heart rate ranges for exercise should be prescribed by your doctor or an exercise specialist.
Know Your Numbers: Heart Rate
The better you understand your heart rate, the more you can maximize your movement to give your heart a good workout.
What is your heart rate?
Your heart rate, or pulse, is the number of times your heart beats per minute. Your resting heart rate is the heart pumping the lowest amount of blood you need because you’re not exercising. If you are sitting or lying down and you’re calm, relaxed and aren’t ill your heart rate is normally between 60 and 100 beats per minute.
Other factors can affect your heart rate include:
- Air temperature When temperatures or humidity increases, the heart pumps more blood so you pulse or heart rate may increase.
- Body position Sometimes when going from a sitting to a standing position, your pulse may go up a little. After a few minutes, it should return to a normal rate.
- Medications that block adrenaline tend to slow your heart rate. Thyroid medication may raise it.
Why your heart rate matters
What’s considered normal?
Your target heart rate is the minimum heart rate in a given amount of time to reach the level of energy necessary to give your heart a good workout. To find your target heart rate to maximize your cardiovascular exercise, the first step is determining your maximum heart rate.
Your maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age. Your target heart rate for moderate exercise is about 50%85% of your maximum heart rate.
Averages by age as a general guide are:
What you can do
About Heart And Vascular Institute
The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine.
What Is A Normal Heart Rate And What Affects It
As an adult, the normal range for resting heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute. This applies for anyone over the age of 17 infants and children have faster heart rates due to their smaller body and heart size. This normal range for heart rate doesnt change across the adult lifespan.
Lots of things can cause your heart rate to speed up :
What about going slow, or bradycardia? Again, there are a few common reasons:
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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.
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.
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Measure Your Child’s Pulse
You will know you have found your child’s pulse when you feel a throbbing or beating. Once you find it, count the number of beats in a 60-second period.
Alternatively, you can count the number of beats you feel in 30 seconds and then multiply that number by two.
Use a clock with a second hand, a stopwatch, or the timer on a cell phone to track the time. You might also want to use a phone app that measures the pulse. These often require you to place a finger on the camera lens for the measurement, so they may not be a good choice for young children who have a hard time holding still.
Factors That Influence Heart Rate
Your ideal heart rate and what is considered too high or too low are all unique to you. Many factors can influence both resting heart rate and heart rate during running. Age, fitness level, and actual heart size can all influence exertional heart rate, says Mehta. So, its essential to know that theres no cut and dried answer when aiming for a specific heart rate. Heres how some factors can influence your heart rate, according to Burns.
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Causes Of Electrolyte Disorders
Electrolyte disorders are most often caused by a loss of bodily fluids through prolonged vomiting, diarrhea, or sweating. They may also develop due to fluid loss related to burns.
Certain medications can cause electrolyte disorders as well. In some cases, underlying diseases, such as acute or chronic kidney disease, are to blame.
The exact cause may vary depending on the specific type of electrolyte disorder.
Elevated levels of an electrolyte are indicated with the prefix hyper-. Depleted levels of an electrolyte are indicated with hypo-.
Conditions caused by electrolyte level imbalances include:
Is Bradycardia Dangerous
For most young people, highly trained athletes, and people who exercise regularly, a below-60 heart rate is normal and healthy. It is very possible to have a slow heart rate and experience no symptoms.
However, if you have symptoms but ignore them, it can sometimes cause more serious problems.
Consult your doctor if you are experiencing some of these symptoms and you have an associated slow heart rate:
- Lack of energy.
- Confusion/memory problems.
- Heart palpitations or flutters.
If your heart rate drops into the 30s, you might not get enough oxygen to your brain, making fainting, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath possible. Blood can also pool in your heart chambers, causing congestive heart failure.
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How Slow Is Too Slow
Doctors consider a heart rate below 60 beats per minute as low, Dr. Baez-Escudero says.
If you have bradycardia, youll have a sustained heart rate below 60 even when youre awake and active. A normal range is from 60 to 100 beats-per-minute while awake. The heart rate can also slow down normally while we are asleep to 40 to 60 beats a minute.
Heart Rate And Exercise
Exercise guidelines often suggest moderate to rigorous exercise for 20 to 30 minutes per day, but how do you know if your particular exercise qualifies? You can use your heart rate as a measure of exercise intensity.
Rigorous exercise will raise your heart rate to 70% to 80% of your maximum heart rate. What’s your maximum heart rate? Just subtract your age from 220. So, for a 50-year-old person, 170 is the maximum heart rate. Multiply that number by 0.7 to 0.8 to estimate the 70% to 80% range. For this 50-year-old person, the range would be 119 to 136.
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How To Measure Your Heart Rate
You can check your heart rate at your wrist. Lightly place your second and third fingers of one hand on the inside of your other wrist, below the base of your thumb. You should feel your pulse under your fingertips. Count the number of beats in one minute. Repeat to make sure you get a consistent reading.
What Is The Heart Rate
Heart rate or pulse rate is the number of times your heart beats in a minute. It is a simple measure to know how much your heart works during rest or activities.
Heart rate is one of the vital signs that are checked regularly whenever you visit your doctor, or when you get admitted to the hospital.
Your heart rate is lower when you are resting and higher when you are doing any kind of activity, or are feeling stressed or anxious.
When you exercise, your heart needs to work harder, which increases your heart rate. As soon as you rest, the heart rate starts decreasing gradually and returns to its normal level, usually within an hour.
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Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome
A person with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome may experience an increased heart rate upon standing up. They may also experience dizziness and a drop in blood pressure.
POTS is a condition of the autonomic nervous system. It happens because this system does not properly regulate bodily functions such as blood pressure, heart rate, or breathing.
Does Heart Rate Increase Or Decrease With Age
As you grow older, your resting heart rate does not change very much, though your heart cant beat as fast during physical activity or stress as it did when you were younger, according to the National Institute on Aging.
- Body size
- Body position
If your resting heart rate changes drastically, talk to your doctor. A higher resting heart rate can be a sign of a heart problem, so if you are an adult with a resting heart rate of 80 to 100 BPM, you might be at risk.
Keeping track of your heart rate can help you improve your overall health and adjust your exercise routine to stay healthy. Want to learn more about your heart? Visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute online.
Help Your Heart Work Stronger
Cardiovascular exercise is especially effective in keeping your heart healthy and reaching your target heart rate. This specific type of exercise gets your heart beating fast for several minutes at a time.
Target heart rate is defined as the minimum number of heartbeats in a given amount of time in order to reach the level of exertion necessary for cardiovascular fitness, specific to a persons age, gender, or physical fitness.
The following is an estimate given by the American Heart Association for target heart rate numbers for adults ages 45 to 70:
- 45 years: 88 to 149 beats per minute
- 50 years: 85 to 145 beats per minute
- 55 years: 83 to 140 beats per minute
- 60 years: 80 to 136 beats per minute
- 65 years: 78 to 132 beats per minute
- 70 years: 75 to 128 beats per minute
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.
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How To Take Your Resting Heart Rate
The best time to check your resting pulse is when youre relaxed, so do it before you perform any sort of strenuous activity or wait for at least two hours afterward. First thing in the morning before youve had caffeine is typically a good time in that regard. So is right before you go to sleep, says Dr. Razavi, who recommends taking your resting heart rate once a day, so you can compare readings for the most accurate number.
Most fitness trackers or wearables can provide accurate heart rate figures, as do blood pressure cuffs, says Dr. Razavi. If you dont have a heart rate monitor, follow these steps to check your pulse: