By Dr Reginald Liew
Your heart rate can vary depending on several factors. What you’ve been doing, what you’ve been eating, how much you weigh, your emotions and many other things can all affect how fast your heart beats. That being said, there are ways to tell what a reasonable heart rate is for you whether you are at rest or exercising. Read on to discover how to measure your heart rate, what regular heart rates are for different demographics, and what to do if yours is outside the normal range.
Your heart rate refers to the number of times your heart beats in one minute (bpm). When you are resting, your heart rate is lower than if you’ve been doing any physical activity. To determine your heart rate, use a watch or clock to count your pulse when you are resting. The easiest way to measure your pulse is to place three fingers on the inside of your wrist beneath your thumb or in front of your windpipe below your jaw. You can count the beats for the full minute or 15 seconds, then multiply by four.
Although there are so many factors that can impact your heart rate, there are generally considered normal ranges.
The resting heart rate is a good indicator of overall health. When we’re children, our resting heart rate can be as high as 190 beats per minute. Once we reach 10, an average resting heart rate falls between 60 and 100 beats per minute for the rest of your life. While some people, such as professional athletes, have rates as low as 40, rates outside of the 60-100 range are often dangerous or symptoms of larger health problems. Generally, fitter people have heart rates at the lower end of the normal range and have a lower risk for many medical ailments.
What your active heart rate should be as a healthy adult depends on your age. To figure out what your active rate should be, first subtract your age from 220 - This is your maximum safe heart rate. Then, take the resulting number and multiply it by 50% and 85% - this is the target active heart rate range for your age. The example below shows how a 50-year-old person would calculate their active heart rate, leading to a result of 85 to 145 beats per minute:
220 - 50 = 170
170 x .5 = 85
170 x .85 = 144.5
However, this is just an estimate. Certain medications and underlying health issues can affect your heart rate. Be sure to consult with your heart doctor before starting any new exercise routine to discuss your individualized target bpm.
If you have an average resting heart rate over 100 bpm, you should see your doctor. This phenomenon is called tachycardia and could be a symptom of severe health problems. Tachycardia can be caused by many things, such as:
Tachycardia symptoms include heart palpitations, chest pain, lightheadedness, fainting, rapid pulse, and shortness of breath. If left untreated, tachycardia can lead to heart failure, cardiac arrest, stroke, and death.
A lower than average resting heart rate is called bradycardia. In some instances, having a lower than average resting heart rate is a good thing. Adults who are very physically fit often have resting heart rates lower than 60 bpm. However, if you are not an avid fitness fanatic, a low resting heart rate may signify health problems, such as:
Bradycardia symptoms include feeling dizzy, fatigue, feeling weak, fainting, confusion, and shortness of breath. If left untreated, bradycardia can lead to cardiac arrest, heart failure, hypertension, hypotension, chest pain, and death.
While the 60 to 100 bpm resting heart rate range is considered normal, you should consult your doctor if you are average or above-average weight and consistently measure at the upper or lower levels. This may not be a reason for alarm, as many factors can affect your heart rate. However, many medical issues can cause an elevated heart rate, while others cause low heart rates. Even if you are within the normal range, having a consistently higher heart rate can lead to a greater risk of certain health conditions and diseases. Your doctor will know based on your patient and familial history if there is cause for concern about your heart rate.