What a “normal” resting heart rate really should be

What a "normal" resting heart rate really should be

Photo credit: jacoblund - Getty Images

Photo credit: jacoblund – Getty Images

2.5 billion. No, this is not the age of the Earth. This is the average number of times the heart beats in a lifetime, according to the American Heart Association.

A quick review of this important organ: The function of the heart is to ensure that blood circulates throughout the body; blood is what supplies oxygen to all of our organs and tissues to keep them functioning optimally, says Suneet Singh, MD, emergency physician and medical director at CareHive Health in Austin, Texas. Your heart beats 100,000 times a day, pumping about 2,000 gallons of blood. Your heart rate is simply the number of heartbeats in a one-minute period.

Athletes love to check their heart rate to see if they’re working as hard or backing off as much as they should during a workout. But watch your rest heart rate, or how fast it beats when you’re relaxed, lying down and calm, is also important. Your heart rate is typically lowest when you’re sleeping or inactive, then increases with physical activity.

What is a normal resting heart rate?

A normal resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute.

Having a heart rate at this sweet spot is important because it decreases the demand on your heart muscle. That means he doesn’t have to work as hard as if he were out of that zone, says Kate Traynor, MS, RN, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“Think of your heart as a car and the oxygen in your blood as gas. The faster you drive, the more gas you use. [the more blood that needs to be pumped]. More gas means more work for the heart, which can put it on constant overload,” says Traynor.

What is considered a slow or fast heart rate?

Fast resting heart rate

A heart rate above 100 beats per minute is called tachycardia. You can develop a high heart rate due to factors such as fever, anemia, dehydration, or physical or emotional stress, which triggers the release of adrenaline, the fight or flight hormone.

“Adrenaline is like gasoline on a fire for heart rate,” says Traynor. It can also lead to bigger problems, ranging from fainting to more serious issues like blood clots leading to stroke or possible heart failure (here’s how to tell if you have a blood clot).

Some research has found that people with a resting heart rate of 84 beats per minute or higher over a five-year period were 55% more likely to die of heart disease than those with a lower resting heart rate. .

Slow resting heart rates

On the other hand, a resting heart rate of less than 60 beats per minute is called bradycardia and can lead to insufficient blood flow to the brain.

“An abnormally low heart rate can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, lightheadedness, and can even lead to loss of consciousness,” says Suneet Mittal, MD, FHRS, of the Heart Rhythm Society.

Certain conditions, such as thyroid disease, can affect how fast your heart beats, Dr. Singh says. “For people with an overactive thyroid, called hyperthyroidism, the excessive amount of thyroid hormone can elevate the heart rate,” he explains. “Conversely, people with an underactive thyroid, called hypothyroidism, may have a slower heart rate.”

Certain medications are also known to affect heart rate, adds Dr. Singh. Stimulants such as pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient found in decongestants, can elevate it. Beta-blockers, which are drugs used to treat high blood pressure and hyperthyroidism, can also affect heart rate and lower it. Electrical abnormalities in the heart pathways can also lower your resting heart rate.

But a low resting heart rate isn’t always a bad thing. Endurance athletes – for example, cyclists or runners – may have rates below 40 beats per minute. This is because they are able to meet their basic metabolic needs without the heart needing to pump as much as the average person, says Dr. Singh. “The heart learns to pump blood more efficiently when we exercise, which is why we recommend cardiovascular exercise,” he says.

Without overdoing it, one of the best things you can do to maintain a healthy resting heart rate is to exercise. You should incorporate both cardio and weights into your routine, for a total of 150 minutes per week, Traynor says.

How can you find out your resting heart rate?

Fitness trackers with heart rate monitors can be surprisingly accurate. But you don’t have to rely on technology to get your numbers.

“The best way to determine your resting heart rate is to learn how to take your pulse,” says Dr. Mittal. “This can be taken by feeling the pulse in your wrist or neck.”

Here’s how to do it: Place your index and middle fingers on your neck next to your trachea. If you want to check it on your wrist, place two fingers between the bone and the tendon, looking for your radial artery, located on the thumb side of your wrist.

Once you find your pulse, count the number of beats in 15 seconds, then multiply that number by 4 to calculate your beats per minute, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Although your heart rate may vary, it’s important to maintain a healthy baseline rate. Once you know what it is for your body, keep an eye out. If you start noticing changes in your heart rate you should see your doctor, especially if you notice that it consistently drops well below your normal resting heart rate or if you have frequent episodes of unexplained rapid beats.

“If you exercise regularly but start to notice that your routine takes more effort, or if you feel out of breath or more tired than normal during your workout, it’s time to see a doctor,” says Traynor.

Anyone with concerns about possible heart rate issues should see a doctor, adds Dr. Singh. A rapid heart rate will usually present as a feeling of the heart pounding or racing, which will cause you to feel generally unwell. Slow heartbeats do not create any symptoms in the chest, but instead cause a feeling of weakness and dizziness. In an extreme condition, a low heart rate will lead to fainting or near fainting. The Bottom Line: If you notice any of these changes, get checked out.

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