Heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute.
It’s one simple number that can tell you so much about how your heart is functioning and if you need to make any changes to your lifestyle or daily habits to improve it.
In most people, heart rate indicates how physically fit they are, based on how the muscle is functioning. Regular cardiovascular fitness, like running, walking, cycling, and swimming, can help lower your resting heart rate.
In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of tracking your heart rate, how to measure your heart rate and the various factors that can influence heart rate. In turn, you may discover small lifestyle changes you can make to improve your heart health.
Importance of tracking heart rate
As a general rule, a lower resting heart rate typically indicates a healthier or more physically active person. A normal resting heart rate varies by age and how healthy a person is. Some health conditions can impact resting heart rate, including anemia, thyroid problems, asthma, cardiomyopathy, and others.
The information provided in this post is for generally healthy individuals. Anyone with any type of heart condition should consult their healthcare provider before following recommendations or health advice about their heart.
If your healthcare provider recommends taking steps to lower your heart rate, there are many benefits to doing so. As your heart rate lowers, your heart will be able to more efficiently pump blood with each contraction and maintain a regular heartbeat throughout the day. This helps improve your overall heart health and many functions throughout your body, including quality of life and potentially increasing your lifespan.
Tracking your heart rate is simple, non-invasive, and takes less than a minute to perform. You can track your heart rate sitting at your desk at work, from the couch at home, or anywhere else where you’re calm, relaxed, and not overexerting yourself.
Consistently tracking your heart rate gives you beneficial insights into how your body’s most important muscle is operating and if it’s working harder than it should be.
By knowing your heart rate, you can understand the steps you need to take in order to lower it through exercise, diet, and lifestyle changes.
Say your doctor recommends performing more cardio workouts to lower your heart rate. By regularly measuring your resting heart rate, you have a baseline to start with. After adding more cardio to your fitness routine, you can accurately evaluate how the exercise is lowering and improving your heart rate over time.
Tracking your heart rate can also help your doctor to detect any potential health risks or conditions that may be occurring in real-time, rather than playing catch up later on once they’re worse.
One simple measurement can tell you so much about your physical and emotional health. It all starts with knowing your resting heart rate and working with a medical professional to decide if lowering your heart rate is a beneficial decision for your health. From finding physical activities that work for your lifestyle to making simple diet changes, lowering your resting heart rate can have many positive impacts on your life.
Normal resting heart rates by age
In healthy adults (over 18 years old), a healthy resting heart rate is anywhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm).
Children typically have a much higher heart rate than adults because their hearts are much smaller and have to beat faster.
Toddlers between ages 3 and 4 typically have a heart rate between 80 and 120 bpm, while newborn babies have a heart rate between 70 and 190 bpm.
How to calculate your heart rate
Measuring your heart rate can be done simply by checking your pulse.
Getting a consistent resting heart rate is best done when you are - you guessed it - resting.
This means you should not calculate your resting heart rate immediately after you’ve eaten a meal, gone for a run, or done some other physical activity. There are occasions when individuals test their heart rate during exercise as well, but that won’t provide an accurate resting heart rate. Allow your body to calm down and regulate before measuring your resting heart rate to get an accurate reading.
Rest your index and third fingers on the side of your neck on your windpipe. To check your pulse on your wrist, place two fingers on the radial artery, which can be found on the thumb side of your wrist.
Whether checking on your neck or your wrist, wait a few seconds to find your pulse. Then, count the number of beats you feel in 15 seconds. Once you have that number, multiply it by 4 to discover your BPM (beats per minute). Feel free to check it multiple times to ensure you’re getting the correct reading.
There are many devices today that calculate heart rate for you at any given time. These include heart rate monitors, smartphones, smartwatches, and other wearables.
It’s a good idea to keep a consistent eye on your heart rate so you can detect early on if something seems awry. Knowing your normal resting heart rate will provide you with a baseline should your heart rate increase over time. This will make it easier to narrow down what may be going on in your body and find a solution.
Factors that impact heart rate
Many factors can impact heart rate in both negative and positive ways. These include pre-existing health conditions, your diet and lifestyle, the amount of exercise you get, and many other influences. Let’s discuss them here.
Individuals who prioritize physical and aerobic exercise generally have lower heart rates than those who do not. The heart is a muscle that needs to be exercised regularly to grow stronger.
Getting consistent exercise, whether it’s a stroll around the neighborhood, swimming, cycling, or running, can help train and strengthen the heart. As you improve your exercise levels, the heart will be in better shape to pump blood and oxygen throughout the body, effectively lowering your heart rate.
Having a higher heart rate is often associated with high blood pressure. Individuals with high blood pressure have a much higher risk of developing heart disease at some point in their lives. By 2035, more than 130 million American adults are projected to have some form of cardiovascular disease; blood pressure and hypertension are two of the most significant risk factors associated with CVD.
Physical and emotional stress takes a toll on the body in many ways, and heart rate is one of them. Stress and other emotions, including anxiety, depression, and fear, can elevate the heart rate to a potentially dangerous rate.
If an individual experiences chronic stress, where the stress hormone levels never fully regulate, that person can be at a higher risk of a heart attack.
Tobacco smoke contains carbon monoxide, which reduces the oxygen in the blood and the heart. The heart needs oxygen to function, so the heart rate speeds up to produce more oxygen.
Smoking also tightens the major arteries in the heart and can cause an irregular heartbeat, forcing the heart to work harder and the heart rate to rise.
When it comes to diet, foods that are high in fat and carbohydrates can be difficult on the heart.
Eating heavy meals on a regular basis can impact a person’s cholesterol levels, along with heart rate, blood pressure, and risk of a heart attack. The body works hard to break down the food we eat so it can pass through the digestive system. The amount of blood needed for digestion impacts your heart rate after every meal.
To avoid overeating, try drinking a glass of water before every meal. Fill your plate with fresh produce, clean protein, and limit sodium as much as you can. Make small changes over time to get better results in the long term.
That morning cup of coffee is a safe, healthy choice for most people, but if you are consuming caffeine in large amounts during the day, your heart rate may be impacted.
Caffeine stimulates the cells in the heart and makes it beat faster, speeding up blood flow and heart rate. If your caffeine consumption is impacting your heart rate, try to limit your intake to two cups of brewed coffee per day.
When your body is dehydrated, the heart reacts and tries to regulate body temperature by beating faster. Dehydration means less blood can circulate through the body, so the heart works overtime to try and catch up.
Proper hydration promotes efficient blood flow and helps all the body’s muscles work effectively, requiring less heavy lifting by the heart.
How can I lower my heart rate?
Tracking your heart rate is an effective way to improve cardiovascular health, alongside a healthy diet, regular exercise, and developing healthy habits that will improve your overall quality of life.
Whether any of these factors are relevant to your daily life or not, it’s a good idea to take a step back and reflect on the lifestyle and daily habits you’ve developed throughout your life. Think about how they may affect your heart rate if it’s inexplicably high and what you can do to lower it.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed about the steps necessary to lower your heart rate, take small steps at first.
The following information is designed to help healthy individuals make small adjustments in their lives to improve their heart rate and overall health. If you have symptoms or other concerns, please consult a healthcare professional before implementing any of these changes.
Start by increasing the amount of exercise you’re getting each week. Add two or three walks to your weekly schedule, whether in the morning before work or in the evening with a partner or your dog. Adding a few cardio exercises per week can greatly impact resting heart rate; it’s not a change you’ll see right away, but with time and commitment, you’ll notice the number dropping.
If you have a lot of stress in your life, take steps to reduce it in manageable ways. Many people swear by meditation, yoga, and other relaxation techniques like focused breathing, journaling, and mindful thinking.
Weight loss is one of the most effective ways to lower your resting heart rate. The larger the body is, the harder the heart has to work to pump blood and circulate oxygen. Consult with your doctor before beginning a weight loss plan, and set attainable goals that don’t feel overwhelming.
Other small steps you can take to lower your heart rate include getting adequate sleep, reducing caffeine intake and alcohol consumption, and quitting smoking.
Keep track of your health
Heart health is absolutely critical to living a long, happy life. An efficient cardiovascular system can help improve general health and make daily activities more enjoyable for people from all walks of life.
Monitoring your heart rate may seem like a small action to take when it comes to the big picture, but it’s a great way to keep an eye on your cardiovascular health with minimal effort required.
Consistently measuring your heart rate can prevent bigger health problems down the road by staying proactive and knowing your numbers.
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