Your heart rate is an important measure of heart health. Heart rate indicates your heart’s ability to transport oxygen-rich blood to the rest of your body. Generally speaking, a lower resting heart rate (measured when you are inactive) means your heart is healthier and more efficient.
This article discusses resting heart rate and lifestyle changes to help you lower your resting heart rate and improve your overall health.
find your heart rate
Resting heart rate is measured by measuring your pulse. For best results, take your pulse first when you wake up in the morning while you are still in bed.
To measure your pulse, find your heartbeat on the side of your neck or the thumb side of your wrist. Gently place the pads of your index and middle fingers on the artery. Once you feel your heartbeat, count the heartbeat for 60 seconds. You can count 15 seconds and multiply by 4, or 30 seconds and multiply by 2, but counting a whole minute is most accurate.
Heart Health and Pulse Pressure
normal resting heart rate
The normal resting heart rate for adults is 60 to 100 beats per minute. However, many factors can affect heart rate. For example, if you are under a lot of stress, your resting heart rate will be higher. If you’re a trained endurance athlete, your resting heart rate may be much lower than average — 40 or 50 beats per minute.
Certain medications can also affect your resting heart rate, including calcium channel blockers and beta blockers. These drugs lower the heart rate and are used to treat conditions such as chest pain, abnormal heart rhythms, and high blood pressure.
Is my heart rate too high?
A persistently elevated resting heart rate can be an important sign of many underlying medical conditions, including (but not limited to):
- Heart (heart), lung (lung), and neurological (brain and nervous system) diseases
- Anemia (a condition characterized by decreased red blood cells)
- Vascular disease (diseases affecting blood vessels, including peripheral artery disease, coronary artery disease, carotid artery disease, etc.)
- Endocrine and autoimmune diseases such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto’s disease, Graves’ disease, thyroid cancer, etc.
If your resting heart rate is persistently elevated, you should first be evaluated by your healthcare provider.
When to seek immediate medical attention
A high heart rate can be a symptom of a heart attack. This is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. Other symptoms of a heart attack include:
- chest pain
- chest pressure
- jaw, neck, or arm pain
- shortness of breath
- cold, clammy skin
Why is my heart rate high?
Tachycardia is a condition that describes an excessively high heart rate – usually over 100 beats per minute. If your heart rate is higher than normal, there may be several reasons.
Medical conditions can cause tachycardia. Electrical impulses in the heart cause it to beat. The abnormal emission of these electrical signals can cause the heart rate to increase. Tachycardia can also occur from high blood pressure, lung disease, blood clots, or too much thyroid hormone in the body.
Stress is another culprit. When you’re stressed, your body triggers a “fight or flight” response. Part of this response is an increase in heart rate. If you’re constantly stressed, your resting heart rate may stay high. Caffeine, alcohol, smoking, and other controllable lifestyle behaviors can also cause an increased heart rate.
Try these tips to lower your heart rate
Making some changes to your lifestyle can lower your heart rate and reduce your overall risk of heart disease.
Regular exercise increases your heart efficiency and lowers your resting heart rate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week. Walking briskly for 30 minutes 5 days a week would meet this recommendation.
Lowering your stress levels can lower your heart rate. Stress management techniques can include:
- yoga or stretching
- read a book
- chewing gum
- take a deep breath
- listen to music
- Squeeze the pressure ball
- Talk to a therapist
Choose the right therapist
change your diet
What you eat can cause a higher heart rate. Salt (sodium) in particular can negatively affect your heart.
The average American consumes 4,000 mg of sodium per day. Even if you don’t “salt” your food, you probably fall into this category. Pay attention to food labels – processed and frozen foods contain high amounts of sodium.
The upper limit of daily sodium intake for adults should not exceed 2,300 mg per day. If you have high blood pressure, this recommendation drops to 1,500 mg per day.
Smoking increases resting heart rate, and the more you smoke, the greater the impact on your heart. Quitting smoking can be a difficult process, but with a plan, you can succeed.
- Find out why you quit smoking: Quitting smoking not only improves your heart health, it also improves your lungs and ability to breathe.
- Set a target date: Choose the day you quit smoking.
- Avoid triggers: Chances are, you’re more likely to smoke in certain environments or around certain groups of people. Develop a replacement plan (if possible) when you quit smoking.
- Managing nicotine withdrawal: Discuss options with your doctor to help reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
- Seek support: Tell your family and friends about your goals. Seek extra encouragement from a support group.
Consuming caffeine can increase your heart rate. Avoid caffeinated coffee and other caffeinated beverages such as energy drinks, soda, and tea. Dietary supplements often also include caffeine—be sure to check product labels.
How much caffeine is too much for you?
When you are dehydrated, less blood circulates through your body. Therefore, your heart has to beat faster to keep the blood flowing. Dehydration can also cause other negative symptoms, such as dizziness, dry mouth, and muscle cramps. In general, adults should drink four to six glasses of water a day. If you are well hydrated, your urine should be pale and clear.
make your sleep
Not getting enough sleep can negatively impact heart health. If you’re chronically sleep deprived, not only will your heart rate increase, but your blood pressure will also stay elevated. In general, adults need at least seven hours of sleep per night.
If you’re having trouble falling asleep, try these tips:
- Avoid using electronics and TV at bedtime
- exercise during the day
- bask in the sun
- Set and follow a sleep schedule
- Use curtains that darken the room
A high heart rate can be caused by many different factors, including stress, medical conditions, and lifestyle behaviors such as smoking and dehydration. Regular physical activity, adequate sleep, a healthy diet, avoiding smoking, and excess caffeine can lower heart rate.
Consult your healthcare provider if your heart rate is higher than average. In some cases, a higher resting heart rate can be considered “normal.” They can help you determine if other medical conditions or lifestyle habits are affecting your heart rate. In some cases, medication is needed to address your high heart rate.
Finding out that your heart rate is higher than average can be worrying. The important thing to remember is that many factors affect your heart rate, most of which are variable. You have the power to change your lifestyle choices and increase your heart rate. Ask your loved ones to help you take responsibility and support you as you make changes that work for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is considered a dangerously high heart rate?
No specific heart rate is considered “dangerous.” However, if your heart rate is consistently above 100 beats per minute, talk to your doctor. Seek immediate medical attention if you have other symptoms, such as shortness of breath.
Does anxiety increase your heart rate?
Stress and anxiety are common causes of a high heart rate.
How to immediately lower your heart rate?
There are several physical actions that can quickly lower your heart rate, but they can be dangerous. Stop the activity and take deep breaths to gradually slow down your heart rate.