Your heart rate means a lot as far as your health is concerned. It changes every time during exercise, sleep, stressful times, and during movement. The resting heart rate however tends to be stable, falling anywhere between 60 and 90 beats per minute. Other factors such as genetics, aging, medications, and medical conditions also influence your resting heart rate.
In this article, we look at heart rate, how to measure the resting heart rate, the ideal range, the causes of high heart rate, and how to lower the heart rate immediately and in the long term.
So, what is heart rate?
Heart rate, also known as pulse, simply means the number of heartbeats of an individual per minute.
Having a lower resting heart rate is better for overall health. It indicates that your heart maintains a healthful rhythm and responds to routine stressors like exercise, illness, and day-to-day activities efficiently.
On the other side, an abnormally high resting heart rate (over 100 beats per minute) means that: the heart is working extra hard to pump blood. Here, you need to see the doctor because a consistently high resting heart rate increases your chances of cardiovascular disease.
What is the normal heart rate?
Like we said above, heart rate varies depending on the time of the day, physical activity, age, weather, hormonal fluctuations, emotional stress, and more. A healthy person has his or her resting heart rate between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm).
However, having less than 60 heartbeats per minute doesn’t necessarily mean deteriorating health. People who get a lot of physical activity like athletes normally have their resting heart rate lower than 60 bpm. In fact, it can go as low as 40 bpm. Their heart muscles don’t work hard to maintain a steady beat.
You can calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age in years from 220.
How to measure your heart rate
The best time to measure heart rate is after having a considerably long time of rest. For example, in the morning before you leave your bed.
To measure this, lightly place your pointer and middle finger of one hand on the wrist of your other hand until you feel your pulse.
Count the number of beats for a minute, and that is your resting heart rate.
What causes abnormal heart rate?
A heartbeat arises from muscle cells called myocytes. When the cells lack oxygen, the brain sends messages to the heart, making myocytes to make stronger, faster pulses.
Apart from the sudden and perhaps normal changes in heart rate which may be caused by emotional stress, weather, exercise, changes in body position, terror, prescription drugs, and hormonal changes, chronically high or abnormal heart rate is an indicator of an underlying medical condition.
Long-term causes of a high heart rate include:
- poor diet
- excessive use of alcohol
- High blood pressure
- Misuse of prescription drugs
Rare causes of a high heart rate include:
- mitral valve disease
- Abnormal thyroid
- Heart disease
- severe bleeding
- organ failure
How to lower the heart rate?
One can either experience sudden spikes in their heart rate due to emotional stress or environmental factors or have consistent abnormal heart rate. We are going to look at how to lower heart rate in both instances. However, addressing the cause is the best way to reduce heart rate in all cases.
How to reduce sudden spikes in heart rate
- Practicing deep breathing techniques.
- Be calm and relax
- Go for a walk in a silent environment
- Have a warm bath
- Practice yoga
How to lower heart rate in the long term
1. Regular body exercise
People who do exercises every day as athletes have had their resting heart rate lower than 60 bpm. It can go as low as 40 bpm. Their heart muscles don’t work hard to maintain a steady beat.
2. Stay hydrated
Dehydration makes your heart work harder to stabilize blood flow. Always drink a lot of water so that the heart does not strain to have blood efficiently supplied to your body. Also, avoid sugar and caffeinated beverages these cause the body to release the hormone epinephrine or adrenaline, which can increase heart rate.
3. Go slow stimulants like caffeine and nicotine
These cause dehydration, causing the heart to work hard.
4. Cut back on alcohol consumption
Since alcohol is a toxin, the body has to work hard to remove it. This causes an increase in heart rate. Also, most alcoholic drinks cause dehydration and this has a direct increase in your heart rate.
5. Have a balanced diet
Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, nuts, and legumes is healthy for your body and heart in particular. These are rich in antioxidants and healthy fats that can lower blood pressure so that the heart can pump blood easily and efficiently.
Heart-healthy nutrients include: omega-3 fatty acids, phenols and tannins, vitamin A, Dietary fiber, and vitamin C
6. Get plenty of sleep
We said earlier in this article that the best time to measure your heart rate is after having along rest. With sleep deprivation, the whole body and heart are subjected to stress all through the day. Always aim at 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. Sleep is also important for weight loss.
7. Maintain a healthy weight
Extra weight also puts stress on the body and heart. Learn how to maintain a healthy weight naturally from our article here.
8. Deal with stress
Stress from work, family, and financial burdens can cause your heart and body to work harder, to maintain a normal rhythm and flow.
Read our article on the link between weight loss and stress and how to reduce stress.
9. Talk therapy
Sometimes counseling can help people to cope with traumatic experiences, grief, and certain stressors that cause spikes in heart rate.
10. Get outdoors
People who spend more time out meeting with friends, taking a short walk in the woods or a park, tend to live a stress-free and happy life.
11. Practice relaxation techniques
Activities such as yoga, mindfulness activities like meditation and guided visualization, can help to reduce stress on your heart and entire body.
Other treatments for abnormally high heart rate
Using prescription medicine such as beta-blockers can help treat an abnormal heart rate and future episodes.
This is a small device that the doctor can implant under the skin. It can sense a rapid heartbeat, sends an electrical signal, and helps the heart return to normal.
According to the mayo clinic, cardiac ablation works by scarring or destroying tissue in your heart that triggers or sustains an abnormal heart rhythm. It prevents abnormal electrical signals from entering your heart and, thus, stops the arrhythmia.
Heart rate and body weight
According to Penn State researchers, people with obesity are more likely to develop a rapid and irregular heart rate, called atrial fibrillation, which can lead to stroke, heart failure, and other complications.
During the research, they discovered that people with obesity had a 40 percent higher chance of developing atrial fibrillation than people without obesity. It is therefore very important to lose extra weight.
Being overweight or obese puts you at a higher risk for developing an arrhythmia or other heart problems.
An elevated heart rate is a natural physical response if it is temporary and caused by physical activity or emotional stress.
An abnormally high heart rate for a prolonged period can be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
Practice lifestyle habits above to lower temporary spikes in heart rate which can result in a long-term reduction.
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