Heart month is coming to a close, and since covering topics like heart health and sugar, women and heart health, dietician advice, the Mediterranean diet, and more, we thought we’d finish things off with a focus on the tick of your ticker itself—heart rate!—and how it can indicate certain things about your health.
The thing is, although it’s not necessary to become obsessed with your heart rate, it’s worth checking your pulse every so often to determine what your ‘normal’ is. This can help indicate if there’s something wrong later on, and can also be used to help you understand your fitness level.
Your heart rate fluctuates constantly.
Humor me, but I’d say it’s pretty interesting monitoring how your heart rate constantly changes through the day. Things like stress, caffeine, sleep (or lack of it), hydration, and exercise can all affect your resting heart rate. And though your heart rate is constantly increasing or decreasing through these activities, you can work towards a healthier heart rate the same way you’d work towards a healthy weight. If you’ve got a dangerously high heart rate, studies have shown that regular physical activity can actually lower it, which then makes you less susceptible to heart-related diseases. Isn’t that neat?
Your resting heart rate is the baseline you need to understand.
Your ‘resting heart rate’ (RHR), is a record of how many times your heart beats in a minute when you’re in a relaxed state and your heart is working minimally. You can use this number to discover how your heart beat changes in different scenarios.
Discovering your heart rate is easy, and once you know how to do it, you can use the trend to monitor certain aspects of your health, like your fitness level, or potential health problems.
How to find your resting heart rate.
The best time to find your resting heart rate is first thing in the morning, as your body is relaxed and is working as little as possible to keep you going. If you haven’t just woken up, get yourself into a relaxed position, making sure that you’re breathing calmly before beginning.
Most people find their wrist to be the easiest place to find their pulse, but you can also try the inside of your elbow, the side of your neck, or the top of your foot. For a wrist pulse check: Use your index and middle finger and place them just below the fat pad below your thumb right on your wrist. Search for the pulse, then count how many beats you get in 60 seconds. If you find yourself losing count, you can get a fairly accurate reading from counting the beats in 15 seconds, then multiplying by four.
What is the average ‘beats per minute’ number?
Most health experts agree that a resting heart rate between 60-100 beats per minute is normal for adults. This is quite a large range, but your heart rate can be affected by multiple different factors. If you find that your pulse falls below or above this area, there might be something wrong, and you should consider checking in with your doctor.
How can your heart rate help you with a better workout?
When you exercise, your heart rate will increase dramatically. But based on your age, exercising at your average target rate can help you get the most aerobic benefit from your workout. Why is this important? If your heart rate is too high, you’re straining. So slow down. If it’s too low, and the intensity feels too easy, you may want to push yourself to exercise a little harder.
To find out what your target heart rate during exercise is, use Health BC’s link!
So what’s the bottom line?
As mentioned before, there are a ton of factors that affect your heart rate. There are times when it will be low, and there are times when it will be high, so don’t panic as you notice how it fluctuates throughout the day. For starters, figure out your resting heart rate, and consider whether or not it’s where you think it should be. From there, start taking note about how your heart rate changes with various intensities of exercise. For both general health and fitness, having a good grasp on what your normal is can help you get a step ahead if you feel like something is off.
Through February, we’ve explored how leading a healthy heart lifestyle, eating a balanced heart-healthy diet, and watching your cholesterol, are all amazing steps you can take to keep your heart in top form, and understanding how your heart rate works is just one more way to stay proactive.
From our hearts to yours, cheers to a great heart month!
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