In honor of American Heart Month, I want to talk about your heart rate. Do you know how to calculate it? Do you know what the numbers even mean?

Your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats in one minute. A normal resting heart rate beats 60 to 100 times per minute, on average. A resting heart rate means you’re at rest and not exerting yourself. Everyone has a different set point for their resting heart rate, but anywhere between 60 and 100 is considered normal.

A person’s heart rate varies from day to day and it varies based on activity level, even when you are at rest. Generally, the more fit you are, the lower your resting heart rate. Some highly trained athletes have resting heart rates in the mid-40s! Because they’re so fit, their hearts beat more efficiently and don’t require as many beats per minute.

 

Why Your Heart Rate Varies

 

A resting heart rate on the higher end isn’t necessarily a direct measure of fitness either. If your resting heart rate is 85 or 90, that doesn’t mean you’re much less fit than the guy who is at 65. It’s very individualized and personalized to your body. But, in most cases, the more fit you are, the lower your resting heart rate will be and the lower your blood pressure will be.

A person’s heart rate also varies with activity. It goes up with regular daily activity, such as shopping in the grocery store or walking in the parking lot. Your heart rate goes up when you move or exert yourself because your muscles require more oxygen and blood flow, causing your heart to beat harder to keep up. It’s the same with exercise: the harder you exercise, the higher your heart rate goes.

A person’s baseline heart rate doesn’t necessarily change with heart disease, but oftentimes people who have coronary disease, congestive heart failure, cardiomyopathy and chronic heart conditions will take beta blockers or medications that intentionally lower the heart rate, which dramatically reduces the stress on the heart. Sometimes in medicine, we purposely try to lower someone’s heart rate to preserve heart function.

 

How to Take Your Heart Rate

 

Do you know your heart rate? Take your pulse by placing your index and middle fingers on the radial artery in your wrist. (Don’t use your thumb to check your heart rate because the thumb has its own pulse.)

Holding your two fingers on your pulse, count how many beats you feel in 6 seconds, then multiply by 10. If you felt 6 beats in 6 seconds, then your resting heart rate is 60. Easy breezy.

Want to learn more about keeping your heart healthy? Call me at 317-343-0611 or email info@olpfamilymedicine.com.

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