- What Is
- Normal Heart Rate
- Factors Affecting Resting Heart Rate
- Check Heart Rate
- Maximum Heart Rate
- Lower Resting Heart Rate
- When to See a Doctor
What is the heart rate?
The heart rate or pulse rate is a vital sign that gets checked every time you visit the doctor. While the average heart rate can vary from person to person, there is an ideal range it should lie in. Heart rates that are outside of this "normal" range can be a sign of underlying health problems.
The heart rate, commonly known as pulse rate, is the number of times your heart beats in a minute. It is completely normal for the heart rate to change a little throughout the day. The heart rate at any given time is determined by how much oxygen-rich blood your body needs. In general, heart rate is the highest when a person is anxious or exercising and the lowest when they are sleeping. A high heart rate can be very dangerous and might even require immediate medical attention. Most of the time, increased heart rate is caused by regular lifestyle factors, emotions, or medications. In some cases, a high heart rate could be the result of heart disease or weakened heart muscles.
What’s the normal heart rate?
Your normal or resting heart rate is your pulse when you are sitting still, quiet, and relaxed. This represents the minimum amount of blood that your body needs because you’re at rest. For healthy adults, the resting heart rate is generally between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm). Recent research suggests that the range of 60 to 90 beats per minute is more accurate. Well-trained athletes may have lower resting heart rates in the range of 40 to 60 beats per minute. A 2013 study showed that a resting heart rate over 90 bpm triples the risk of premature death as compared to the lowest heart rate category of less than 50 bpm.
The resting heart rate for children varies by age. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), the normal heart rates (beats per minute) for children are:
- Newborns 0 to 1 month old: 70 – 190.
- Infants 1 to 11 months old: 80 – 160.
- Children 1 to 2 years old: 80 – 130.
- Children 3 to 4 years old: 80 – 120.
- Children 5 to 6 years old: 75 – 115.
- Children 7 to 9 years old: 70 – 110.
Factors that can affect resting heart rate
Factors that can cause a high heart rate include:
- Anxiety: People with anxiety have higher heart rates, especially during panic attacks.
- Pain: Intense physical pain can boost the heart rate.
- Weather and temperature: The heart is likely to be higher in hot and humid climates.
- Pregnancy: It can cause an increased or irregular heart rate.
- Smoking: Smokers tend to have a higher resting heart rate.
- Caffeine: It increases both the heart rate and blood pressure.
- Medications: Some medications can increase or decrease the heart rate as a side-effect.
How to check your heart rate?
You can check your pulse at one of the following spots:
- The insides of your wrists.
- The sides of your neck.
- The insides of your elbows.
- The tops of your feet.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the wrist as it is very easy to locate your artery here. To measure your pulse, take the tips of your index and middle fingers and press lightly over the artery. Start counting on a beat, which marks the "zero". Count the number of heartbeats for a full 60 seconds or for 30 seconds and multiply by 2.
What is the maximum heart rate?
A quick and easy way to calculate your maximum heart rate is to subtract your age from 220.
Predicted maximum heart rate = 220 - your age
The predicted maximum heart rate for a 50-year-old person is 170 beats per minute.
This is the simplest formula to get an estimate of the maximum heart rate for a person. For more precise calculations, over 40 complex equations have been developed. Keep in mind that your actual maximum heart rate is most accurately identified by a medically supervised maximal graded exercise test.
How to lower your resting heart rate?
If you have a chronically high pulse, some simple lifestyle changes can help lower your resting heart rate.
- Get regular exercise: Moderate to vigorous exercise makes your heart stronger so that it works better.
- Eat right and manage weight: This will help keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control.
- Control stress: Being tense or anxious increases your heart rate throughout the day.
- Use over-the-counter medications with caution: Learn about the potential side effects and talk to your doctor about which medications you need to avoid.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol: If you choose to drink these beverages, do so in moderation.
- Quit smoking: It’s one of the best things you can do for your overall health.
When to see a doctor
You should get in touch with your doctor if you experience:
- sudden changes in the resting heart rate.
- heart rate changes that cause anxiety.
- heart rate changes after taking a new medication.
- frequently irregular heartbeat.
You should immediately head to the emergency room if you:
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
American Heart Association: "All About Heart Rate (Pulse)."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Target Heart Rate and Estimated Maximum Heart Rate."
European Respiratory Journal: "Maximal Heart rate (HRmax) prediction equations: Simple solution to estimating exercise intensity!"
Hackensack Meridian Health: "6 Proven Ways to Lower Your Resting Heart Rate."
Harvard Health Publishing: "Increase in resting heart rate is a signal worth watching," "Should I worry about my fast pulse?" “Your resting heart rate can reflect your current and future health."
Henning, A., Krawiec, C. Sinus Tachycardia, StatPearls Publishing, 2021.
U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Pulse."
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