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Why Does My Heart Rate Fluctuate So Much

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The best places to find your pulse are the:

  • side of your neck
  • top of the foot

To get the most accurate reading, put your finger over your pulse and count the number of beats in 60 seconds.

Your resting heart rate is the heart pumping the lowest amount of blood you need because youre not exercising. If youre sitting or lying and youre calm, relaxed and arent ill, your heart rate is normally between 60 and 100 .

But a heart rate lower than 60 doesnt necessarily signal a medical problem. It could be the result of taking a drug such as a beta blocker. A lower heart rate is also common for people who get a lot of physical activity or are very athletic. Active people often have a lower resting heart rate because their heart muscle is in better condition and doesnt need to work as hard to maintain a steady beat. A low or moderate amount of physical activity doesnt usually change the resting pulse much.

How To Improve Resting Heart Rate

By far, the No. 1 thing to do for lowering resting heart rate is exercise. In particular, aerobic exercise like running or cycling will assist you in building cardiovascular strength.

Additionally, each of the behaviors below can help you decrease your RHR:

  • Limiting stimulants like caffeine and nicotine
  • Taking warm, calming showers or baths
  • Going for walks outside, ideally in nature
  • Relaxation exercises like guided breathing, meditation, stretching or yoga

In general, anything you can do to reduce stress and manage anxiety will benefit your resting heart rate.

How Do You Check Your Pulse

You can measure your heart rate manually by checking your pulse. Follow these three steps.

  • Find your pulse in your wrist .
  • Count each beat for a total time of 30 seconds.
  • Double the number of beats you counted. This is your heart rate or pulse, measured in beats per minute.

Also make a note of whether your heart beats at an even or uneven rhythm. A normal heart beats in a steady rhythm like a clock, tick tock tick tock.

Some people like to use a heart rate monitor to measure their heart rate. These monitors are often included in fitness trackers, which are now widely available in sports stores and other retail outlets. However, their accuracy depends on the quality of the device.

If you’ve been active, or recently had a stimulant like nicotine or caffeine, you’ll need to wait at least five minutes before taking your pulse.

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Changes In Heart Rhythms Are Usually Harmless

Our heart rate adapts to our bodys need for energy throughout the day, whether its for walking up the stairs or a bout of strenuous exercise. These tempo changes based on physical activity are perfectly normal.

Other common situations can trigger changes in heart rhythms too. Mild dehydration can cause the heart to beat more quickly thats the bodys way of trying to maintain the flow of blood when theres less available for every beat.

A change in medication, or an interaction between medications, can trigger a temporarily abnormal heartbeatanother reason to always share medication and supplement routines with your health care team. And while the resolution can be simple , its sometimes beyond our ability to understand why we feel a change in our heart rhythms or if its the symptom of a more urgent medical situation.

What Is A Target Heart Rate

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According to the AHA , your target heart rate during moderate-intensity activities is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. Vigorous physical activity should result in about 70 to 85 percent of your maximum.

So for 35-year-olds, a goal target heart rate is between 93 and 157 bpm .

The table below shows the target heart rate range and average maximum heart rate for different ages, based on information from the AHA.

Age
  • being an older adult
  • problems with the conduction system of the heart

Borderline or occasional bradycardia may not need treatment. But prolonged bradycardia, or bradycardia thats not treated, can become more serious.

Certain underlying conditions are typically the true decider of what a dangerous heart rate is. If youre already living with heart disease, heart failure, or a history of heart disease and notice a fluctuation in your heart rate, you should go to the doctor as soon as you can, as it could be a sign of a serious complication.

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What Causes A Fluctuating Heart Rate

Most fluctuations in heart rate are normal responses to the rhythms of daily life due to things like stress, sleep or a morning cup of coffee.

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But it’s important to understand what your heart rate is, why it might be fluctuating and when to get medical help.

After all, your heart rate “is one of the most sensitive markers to understanding what’s happening with your heart,” says Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, a cardiologist in New York City.

Measuring Your Resting Heart Rate

The American Heart Association recommends that you check your resting heart rate first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. For best results, choose a morning when you wake up naturally since many of us are startled by the sound of the alarm. If that isnt possible, try relaxing for a few minutes before you take your resting heart rate.

If you took your resting heart rate each morning, you would find that some mornings it is higher and others lower. This will vary depending on whether you are fighting illness, slept well, and where your hormonal cycle is that day . Many of the same things that affect Heart Rate Variability also may change your resting heart rate.

Please note, the information in this post is not a substitute for medical or professional advice. It is simply general information.

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What To Do When You Receive An Alert

If you receive a notification, the irregular rhythm notification feature on your Apple Watch identified an irregular rhythm suggestive of AFib and confirmed it with multiple readings.

If you have not been diagnosed with AFib by a physician, you should talk to your doctor. If you have been diagnosed with AFib by a physician, learn how you can track your AFib History on Apple Watch.

How To Measure Heart Rate

Your Heart Rate

Measuring your heart rate is easy to do if you follow some simple steps. The easiest place to measure your heart rate is on your wrist, just below the base of the thumb. Place your index and middle fingers between the bone and tendon at the base of your thumb. Once you feel your pulse, count the number of beats you feel in 15 seconds. Once youve counted how many pulses, youll multiply that number by four. This gives you the total amount of times your heart beats in one minute. For example, if your heart beats 18 times in 15 seconds, your heart rate is 72 beats per minute.

Its important to measure your heart rate when youre in a relaxed state. If you take your pulse after any strenuous activity, you wont get an accurate reading. You should wait for one to two hours after exercising to take your resting heart rate, and an hour after consuming caffeine, according to Harvard Health.

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Resting Heart Rate : Everything You Need To Know

Originally published July 6, 2016 3:58 pm, updated July 12, 2022

One of the easiest and maybe most effective ways to gauge your health and aerobic fitness level is via your resting heart rate . By measuring it regularly, you can see both your long-term progress and daily fluctuations, which can indicate whether youre fit for training, overtrained, or stressed. Heres everything you need to know to understand what affects RHR and why it matters.

How Are Arrhythmias Treated

Treatment will depend on what type of arrhythmia you have. Your doctor may recommend one or more of these.

Medications

Medicines that treat uneven heart rhythms include:

  • Put a cold, wet towel over your face

Electrical cardioversion

If drugs can’t control an uneven heart rhythm , you might need cardioversion. For this, doctors put you under and then send an electrical shock to your chest wall to trigger your heartâs regular rhythm.

This device sends small electrical impulses to your heart muscle to keep a safe heart rate. It includes a pulse generator, which houses the battery and a tiny computer, and wires that send impulses to the heart muscle.

Implantable cardioverter defibrillator

Doctors mainly use ICDs to treat ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation, two life-threatening heart rhythms.

The ICD constantly tracks your heart rhythm. When it detects a very fast, unusual rhythm, it delivers an electric shock to the heart muscle to make it beat in a regular rhythm again. The ICD has two parts: the leads and a pulse generator. The leads are made up of wires and sensors that monitor the heart rhythm and deliver energy used for pacing or defibrillation. The generator houses the battery and a tiny computer. Energy is stored in the battery until it is needed. The computer receives information from the leads to determine how the heart is beating.

Your doctor programs the ICD to include one or all of the following functions:

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Slow Resting Heart Rates

A slow resting heart rate can mean different things, depending on the circumstances. For example, it sometimes suggests that a person has a healthier heart says Dr. Jason Wasfy at Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center. In certain cases, a lower resting heart rate can mean a higher degree of physical fitness, which is associated with reduced rates of cardiac events like heart attacks.

In other cases, having a slow heart rate could signify something more serious it all depends on your activity level and age. Its normal for the elderly to have a lower than average resting heart rate, for example. So what if your resting heart rate is well below 60 bpm, but youre not an athlete or a senior?

According to the American Heart Association, this could suggest the presence of bradycardia when a persons heart rate is lower than it should be. Bradycardia doesnt always cause symptoms, but when it does, it can cause lightheadedness, weakness, confusion, and lack of energy when exercising. Having these symptoms in addition to a low heart rate may mean its time to seek medical advice.

What Are The Treatment Options

Acute changes in heart rate variability

Vagal Maneuvers

Your heartbeat is regulated by the vagal nerve. Maneuvers, which affect vagal nerve are heaving , coughing and putting an ice pack on your face.

Medicine

You can take antiarrhythmic drugs either orally or get them injected. They make the heartbeat normal. The drugs are given in a hospital. The drugs that are available control heart rate restore normal rhythm of heart or do both. Sometimes, you may need more than one drug to control your tachycardia.

Cardioversion

An electric shock is given to heart using patches or paddles. The electrical impulses of the heart are affected by this and this helps in restoring normal rhythm. This is done in hospital.

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The Active Ingredients Of Tai Chi

When Peter Wayne, medical editor of Introduction to Tai Chi from Harvard Medical School, began conducting scientific studies on the health benefits of tai chi, he began noticing that tai chi works in a variety of ways, not just one. Whereas most drugs have a single active ingredient, he observed that tai chi was more like a multidrug combination that uses different components to produce a variety of effects.

Wayne formulated the idea of the eight active ingredients of tai chi, which he and his colleagues now use as a conceptual framework to help evaluate the clinical benefits of tai chi, explore the underlying mechanisms that produce these effects, and shape the way tai chi is taught to participants in clinical trials . While different styles of tai chi emphasize different ingredients, these therapeutic factors are interwoven and synergistic. Heres a summary of one of the active ingredients of tai chi.

Structural integration. Tai chi looks at the body as an interconnected system, not as a collection of individual parts. As a result, when practicing tai chi, you wont do one exercise for your biceps and another for your glutes. Instead, tai chi integrates the upper body with the lower body, the right side with the left side, and the extremities with the core.

To learn more about tai chi, its health benefits, and how to learn its movements, check out Introduction to Tai Chi from Harvard Medical School.

How Is Atrial Fibrillation Defined

Atrial fibrillation is defined in various ways, depending on how it affects you:

  • paroxysmal atrial fibrillation – this comes and goes, usually stopping within 48 hours without any treatment.
  • persistent atrial fibrillation – this lasts for longer than seven days, or less when it is treated.
  • longstanding persistent atrial fibrillation – this means you have had continuous atrial fibrillation for a year or longer.
  • permanent atrial fibrillation – this is when atrial fibrillation is present all the time and no more attempts to restore normal heart rhythm will be made

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What Causes Fluctuations In Blood Pressure

Your heart works to ensure that your five or so liters of blood continue to pump throughout your body. Blood pressure is the force that your blood exerts onto the walls of blood vessels, and doctors measure it to determine how healthy your blood vessels and heart are. It is normal to experience some variation in your blood pressure throughout the day, but extreme changes may indicate another issue that should be checked out. Most people wont notice any symptoms with their fluctuating blood pressure, making it challenging to detect them. Here the article will help you find out if your blood pressure is swinging and what you can do.

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What Is Heart Rate Variability

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Heart rate variability is where the amount of time between your heartbeats fluctuates slightly. These variations are very small, adding or subtracting a fraction of a second between beats.

These fluctuations are undetectable except with specialized devices. While heart rate variability may be present in healthy individuals, it can still indicate the presence of health problems, including heart conditions and mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

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Watch Your Heart Rate But Don’t Obsess About It

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Keeping track of your heart rate is probably a good thing. Obsessing about it probably isn’t.

That’s one drawback of the increasing popularity of wearable devices that constantly monitor heart rates, said Dr. Tracy Stevens, a cardiologist at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Missouri.

“I’ve had people suffer significant injuries when they’re trying to check their heart rate while exercising,” she said. “They take a hand off their treadmill and shoot right off the back and fall off.”

Even without a monitor, the preoccupation can have consequences.

“They’ll push too hard on their carotid arteries to check their pulse, which instigates a reflex that drops their blood pressure, and they pass out,” Stevens said. People shouldn’t put “too much emphasis on a number.”

A 2013 study published in the journal Heart of nearly 3,000 men in Denmark showed the risk of death increased by 16% for every 10 beats per minute increase in resting heart rate. But Stevens said she is far more focused on high blood pressure, obesity, smoking and other risk factors for heart disease.

“Heart rate is just a piece of the whole picture,” she said.

Dr. Patrick Ellinor, director of the Cardiac Arrhythmia Service at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, called heart rates a measurement “that can be checked occasionally but should not be obsessed over. It’s important to know there is a wide range of normal.”

Still, a number outside the norm can be a warning sign.

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

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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.
  • 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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