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Understanding resting heart rate

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Your resting heart rate, or RHR, is how many times your heart beats in one minute while you are at rest. It’s both a gauge of your heart health and a biomarker of aging, it’s one of the simplest and best measures of your health.

A healthy resting heart rate is about 60 beats per minute, but this number varies with age. The normal range for a resting heart rate is between 60 bpm and 100 bpm. Well-conditioned athletes, however, could have a resting heart rate of around 40 bpm. Generally, a lower heart rate at rest implies more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness.

There are many factors that determine your resting heart rate at any moment. These factors include the time of day, your activity level, and your stress level. Keep in mind that the factors that can influence resting heart rate, including:

  • Age
  • Fitness and activity levels
  • Being a smoker
  • Having cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol or diabetes
  • Air temperature
  • Body position (standing up or lying down, for example)
  • Emotions
  • Body size
  • Medications

RHR generally increases with age. Checking the resting heart rate chart below to see how you compare to your age group.

Table 1. Resting heart rate (RHR) values for men (beats per minute)

Table 2. Resting heart rate (RHR) values for women (beats per minute)

Resting heart rate, heart rate variability, and blood pressure are all important measures of heart health. Your resting heart rate (RHR) is the number of times your heart beats per minute. Heart rate variability (HRV) is a measure of the variation in the time between consecutive heartbeats. Lastly, blood pressure is the force of blood flowing through your blood vessels.

How to measure resting heart rate

To take your pulse, place your index finger and your middle finger on one of your pulse points. Then count the number of heartbeats for 15 seconds, then multiply by four.

When should you check your resting heart rate?

The best time to check your resting heart rate is when you wake up in the morning before you get out of bed. Check your RHR at the same time and rested state every day to get an accurate reading.

What is a normal resting heart rate?

Although there’s a wide range of normal, an unusually high or low resting heart rate may indicate an underlying problem. Studies show that having high RHR increases your risk even after controlling for other factors such as physical fitness, blood pressure, and lipid level. Further, an increase in RHR over time is associated with an increased risk of death from heart disease and all-cause mortality.

An optimal heart rate about one beat per second at rest, or (60 bpm). Consequently, for every 10 beats per minute increase, there is a 10 to 20% increased risk of premature death.

What’s a dangerous Resting Heart Rate?

A resting heart rate can be dangerous if it is too fast, tachycardia, or too slow, bradycardia. Tachycardia is generally over 100 bpm and bradycardia is generally below 60 bpm (for non-athletes). A resting heart rate that is too fast or too slow could be the result of a more serious underlying health problem.

Tachycardia, a resting heart rate that is too fast can be caused by congenital heart disease, poor circulation, anemia, hypertension, or injury to the heart, such as a heart attack. It is also associated with a shorter life expectancy.

Bradycardia, a slow resting heart rate, can be caused by hypotension, congenital heart disease, damage to the heart (from heart disease, heart attack, or aging), chronic inflammation, or myocarditis (a heart infection).

If you have a resting heart rate that is too high or too low for an extended period of time, it can cause potentially dangerous health conditions such as heart failure, blood clots, fainting, and sudden cardiac arrest.

if your resting heart rate is consistently above 100 bpm or below 60 bpm (if you are not an athlete), you should see your doctor. Additionally, you should watch for symptoms such as fainting, shortness of breath, feeling dizzy or light-headed, and having chest pain or feeling discomfort or fluttering in your chest.

Exercise that lower RHR

One study put participants through a 12-week aerobic conditioning program of cycling, Stairmaster, and running on a treadmill. Participants dropped their resting heart rate down from an average of 69 to 66, a 3 point drop. When they stopped the aerobic program, however, their resting heart rate went back to around 69 again.

It appears that you must continue exercising to keep your resting heart rate lower. What else can you do?

Foods that Lower RHR

People in the Blue Zones, areas where people live longer than average, eat plenty of beans. One reason beans are so healthy is that they can help lower your pulse.

In one study, participants were given a cup a day of beans, chickpeas, or lentils. Participants lowered their resting heart rate from an average of 74.1 to 70.7, a 3.4 point drop. The change was similar to those in the other study who exercised for 250hours!

Keep Your Doctor Informed of Your RHR

Go2sleep is not meant to diagnose or treat you. It’s intended to help you understand one aspect of your health, your RHR.

Everyone is different and has unique circumstances. Consult with your doctor about any changes in your health.

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