Heart rate refers to the number of per-minute heartbeats a person has. It’s usually called the pulse, too. It is typically a sign of good health to have a lower resting heart rate.
Discover how to calculate the resting heart rate in this article. The optimal range is also discussed, and how to reduce the heart rate instantly and in the long term.
Putting the index and middle finger side-by-side on the neck, below the jawbone edge, is the best way to check the pulse. Count in 60 seconds how many heartbeats occur. On the inside of their wrists, certain individuals can even feel their pulses.
The number of heartbeats that occur in 30 seconds might be easier to count, and then multiply the result by 2.
After periods of extended rest, it is best to test the pulse. Ideally, a person should count their heartbeats, still lying in bed, first thing in the morning.
How to lower the heart rate
If the heart rate unexpectedly increases in response to problems such as emotional stress or environmental causes, the only way to decrease the heart rate is to resolve the cause.
Ways of minimizing abrupt heart rate shifts include:
- practicing deep or guided breathing techniques, such as box breathing
- relaxing and trying to remain calm
- going for a walk, ideally away from an urban environment
- having a warm, relaxing bath or shower
- practice stretching and relaxation exercises, such as yoga
In the long term, several lifestyle patterns may lead to lowering the resting heart rate.
They can also enhance the capacity of a person during physical activity and stress to maintain a healthy heart rate.
In the long term, the following tips can help lower the heart rate:
- Exercise: Daily exercise is the simplest and most successful way to maintain a long-lasting lower heart rate.
- Keep hydrated: The heart needs to work harder to stabilize the supply of blood when the body is dehydrated. Drink plenty of sugar- and caffeine-free beverages, such as water and herbal tea, throughout the day.
- Limit stimulant consumption, such as caffeine and nicotine: Stimulants can cause dehydration and increase the workload of the heart.
- Limit alcohol intake: The body is dehydrated by most types of alcohol. Alcohol is also a toxin, and in order to absorb and extract it the body must work harder.
- Eat a nutritious, balanced diet: consuming a diverse diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, nuts, and legumes will help improve heart health and overall health.
Rich in antioxidants and healthy fats, foods and supplements can reduce blood pressure and make it easier for the heart to work.
Heart-healthy nutrients include:
- omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, lean meats, nuts, grains, and legumes
- phenols and tannins, found in tea, coffee, and red wine (in moderation)
- vitamin A, found in most leafy, green vegetables
- dietary fiber, found in whole grains, nuts, legumes, and most fruits and vegetables
- vitamin C, found especially in citrus fruits, leafy greens, and bean sprouts
- Get enough sleep: A persistent lack of sleep puts stress, including the heart, on the entire body. The majority of adults can get 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night.
- Maintain a good weight for the body: Excess weight often puts stress on the heart and body.
- Reducing or overcoming major long-term stress sources: stress induced by work, caring for a loved one or financial stresses all make it harder for the heart and the rest of the body to work, to sustain a regular rhythm and flow.
- Get therapy or psychiatric services: The body is stressed by traumatic memories, depression, and some mental health disorders and may affect brain chemistry, making it more difficult for individuals to deal with daily tasks and stressors.
- Get outdoors: Research indicates that people who spend more time in the wild appear to be happier and less depressed than people who do not even by taking a short walk in the woods or a park.
- Practice relaxation techniques: When done regularly, practices that improve self-awareness and mindfulness, such as meditation and guided visualization, may help alleviate stress.
Resting heart rate and health
It is considered safe to have a relatively low resting heart rate, whereas a high resting heart rate can increase the risk of different conditions.
A lower heart rate helps the heart to maintain a steady rhythm and to effectively respond to routine stressors. Exercise, illness, and day-to-day activities can include these.
It is a major contribution to optimal health to have a relatively low heart rate. An abnormally high heart rate can lead to a number of conditions and health risks.
High heart rate-related risks include:
- low energy levels
- low physical fitness
- chest pain or discomfort
- difficulty or discomfort breathing
- reduced blood circulation, especially to the hands and feet
- low blood pressure
- lightheadedness, dizziness, and fainting
- blood clots
- heart failure, heart attack, or stroke
Ideal heart rates
The heart rate varies. Many factors contribute to a changing heart rate, including:
- physical activity
- time of day
- hormonal changes or fluctuations
- emotional stress
A healthful resting heart rate will vary from person to person. However the target resting heart rate for most individuals is between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm).
By subtracting their age from 220, a person may measure their maximum heart rate. A safe heart rate range during moderate exercise is usually 50-70 percent of this limit.
The healthy range will be 70-85 percent of the maximum heart rate during strenuous exercise.
Average heart rate ranges are:
|Age in years||Target heart rate||Average maximum heart rate|
|20||100–170 bpm||200 bpm|
|30||95–162 bpm||190 bpm|
|40||93–157 bpm||185 bpm|
|45||90–153 bpm||175 bpm|
|50||88–149 bpm||170 bpm|
|55||85–145 bpm||165 bpm|
|60||83–140 bpm||160 bpm|
|65||80–136 bpm||155 bpm|
|70||75–128 bpm||150 bpm|
Causes of an unhealthy heart rate
Each heartbeat arises from myocytes called specialized muscle cells.
The brain sends signals to the heart when these cells require more oxygen, as during exercise, causing myocytes to make stronger, more frequent pulses.
Everyone experiences sudden, temporary changes in their heart rate. They may be caused by:
- Emotional stress: Being upset or overwhelmed can cause a stress response, raising the heart rate.
- Weather: High temperature or humidity means that the body must work harder to cool itself down.
- Rapidly changing the body’s position: This can be as simple as standing up too quickly.
- Exercise: During physical activity, the heart pumps more frequently, to deliver blood and oxygen to muscle cells more quickly. The increase in heart rate will depend on how strenuous the exercise is.
- Recreational or prescription drugs: Many recreational drugs, such as cocaine and ecstasy, can temporarily raise the heart rate. Some prescription drugs can do the same.
- Fright or terror: Fear, an extreme form of stress, sparks an adrenaline response that increases the heart rate.
- Hormonal changes: Fluctuations in hormone levels, such as those that occur during pregnancy or menopause, may temporarily affect the heart rate.
Getting a chronically high or abnormal heart rate is also a symptom of an underlying medical problem or an unhealthy lifestyle.
Common long-term causes of a high heart rate include:
- lack of exercise
- poor diet
- smoking tobacco products
- excessive alcohol consumption
- hypertension, or high blood pressure
- long-term use of recreational drugs or misuse of prescription medications
Less common causes of a high heart rate include:
- mitral valve disease
- abnormal thyroid or hormonal activity
- heart damage or conditions
- severe bleeding
- organ failure or severe illness
An increased heart rate is also a physical reaction that is normal. If the spike is transient and triggered by physical activity or emotional stress, this is especially true.
An underlying medical condition may be indicated by a resting heart rate that is abnormally high for a prolonged time.
Several lifestyle patterns can help minimize acute heart rate increases and result in a long-term decrease.
For example, if the normal heart rate is unusually high due to an underlying medical condition, medication such as a beta-blocker might be administered by a doctor.