Heart rate, also known as pulse, is the number of times a person’s heart beats per minute. Normal heart rate varies from person to person, but a normal range for adults is 60 to 100 beats per minute.
What’s A Normal Heart Rate?
A heart rate is a measurement of the number of times the heart muscle beats per minute. Healthy kids and adults will have hearts that beat at different speeds because of their age and body size. If the heart is beating too fast or too slow, this could mean you have an underlying health problem. Your resting heart rate will also allow you to gauge your current heart health.
In general, a lower resting heart rate means the heart is beating less per minute, which likely means it’s more efficient. Your resting heart rate tells you how fast your heart is beating when you’re in a relaxed state, like sitting or laying down. If your resting heart rate is too high, this might mean you have lower physical fitness, or that you’re at risk of developing a heart condition.
Knowing what your target heart rate should be for your age can help you recognize if and when your heart rate is abnormal, which may be an indication that it’s time to go to the doctor.
However, a normal heart rate depends on the individual, age, body size, heart conditions, whether the person is sitting or moving, medication use and even air temperature. Emotions can affect heart rate; for example, getting excited or scared can increase the heart rate.
Most importantly, getting fitter lowers the heart rate, by making heart muscles work more efficiently. A well-trained athlete may have a resting heart rate of 40 to 60 beats per minute, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
A normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute.
Generally, a lower heart rate at rest implies more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness. For example, a well-trained athlete might have a normal resting heart rate closer to 40 beats per minute.
To measure your heart rate, simply check your pulse. Place your index and third fingers on your neck to the side of your windpipe. To check your pulse at your wrist, place two fingers between the bone and the tendon over your radial artery — which is located on the thumb side of your wrist.
When you feel your pulse, count the number of beats in 15 seconds. Multiply this number by four to calculate your beats per minute.
Keep in mind that many factors can influence heart rate, including:
- Fitness and activity levels
- Being a smoker
- Having cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol or diabetes
- Air temperature
- Body position (standing up or lying down, for example)
- Body size
One of the easiest, and maybe most effective, ways to gauge your health can be done in 30 seconds with two fingers. Measuring your resting heart rate (RHR) — the number of heart beats per minute while you’re at rest — is a real-time snapshot of how your heart muscle is functioning.
It’s easy to do. Place your index and middle finger on your wrist just below the thumb, or along either side of your neck, so you can feel your pulse. Use a watch to count the number of beats for 30 seconds and double it to get your beats per minute. Repeat a few times to ensure an accurate reading. While a heart rate is considered normal if the rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute, most healthy relaxed adults have a resting heart rate below 90 beats per minute.
What Is The Heart Rate?
The heart rate is the number of times the heart beats in the space of a minute.
The heart is a muscular organ in the center of the chest. When it beats, the heart pumps blood containing oxygen and nutrients around the body and brings back waste products.
A healthy heart supplies the body with just the right amount of blood at the right rate for whatever the body is doing at that time.
For example, being frightened or surprised automatically releases adrenaline, a hormone, to make the heart rate faster. This prepares the body to use more oxygen and energy to escape or confront potential danger.
The pulse is often confused with the heart rate but refers instead to how many times per minute the arteries expand and contract in response to the pumping action of the heart.
The pulse rate is exactly equal to the heartbeat, as the contractions of the heart cause the increases in blood pressure in the arteries that lead to a noticeable pulse.
Taking the pulse is, therefore, a direct measure of heart rate.
What Is Maximum Heart Rate?
The maximum heart rate is the highest heart rate achieved during maximal exercise. One simple method to calculate your predicted maximum heart rate, uses this formula:
220 – your age = predicted maximum heart rate
Example: a 40-year-old’s predicted maximum heart rate is 180 beats/minute.
Your actual maximum heart rate is most accurately determined by a medically supervised maximal graded exercise test.
Blood Pressure Vs. Heart Rate
Some people confuse high blood pressure with a high heart rate. Blood pressure is the measurement of the force of the blood against the walls of arteries, while pulse rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute.
There is no direct correlation between the two, and high blood pressure, or hypertension, does not necessarily result in a high pulse rate, and vice versa. Heart rate goes up during strenuous activity, but a vigorous workout may only modestly increase blood pressure.
What Is A Fast Heart Rate?
If your heart rate is over 100 beats per minute when you are at rest, this is considered fast.
A rapid heart rate, also known as tachycardia, can be related to many different health conditions. It’s normal for your heart rate to increase when you’re exercising or if your body is fighting off an infection.
If you have noticed a sudden increase in your heart rate and are also feeling dizzy, faint or having palpitations (a feeling of being aware of your heartbeat, or that your heart is pounding or beating irregularly), you should speak with your GP.
What Is A Slow Heart Rate?
A heart rate below 60 beats per minute when you are at rest is considered slow (bradycardia).
A slower heart rate can be normal for some people, including athletes, fit and healthy young adults, or those taking medications like beta-blockers. For example, it is common for someone who exercises a lot to have a resting heart rate of 60 beats per minute or less.
However, if a slow heart rate is not normal for you, especially if you feel unwell with it, this could indicate a problem with your heart. If you notice your heart rate is slower than usual, and you are feeling faint, fatigued or dizzy, you should talk to your GP.
What Is Your Target Heart Rate Zone?
Target Heart Rate Zones by Age *
- Age: 20
- Target Heart Rate (HR) Zone (60-85%): ** 120 – 170
- Predicted Maximum HR: 200
- Age: 25
- Target Heart Rate (HR) Zone (60-85%): 117 – 166
- Predicted Maximum HR: 195
- Age: 30
- Target Heart Rate (HR) Zone (60-85%): 114 – 162
- Predicted Maximum HR: 190
- Age: 35
- Target Heart Rate (HR) Zone (60-85%): ** 111 – 157
- Predicted Maximum HR: 185
- Age: 40
- Target Heart Rate (HR) Zone (60-85%): 108 – 153
- Predicted Maximum HR: 180
- Age: 45
- Target Heart Rate (HR) Zone (60-85%): 105 – 149
- Predicted Maximum HR: 175
- Age: 50
- Target Heart Rate (HR) Zone (60-85%): 102 – 145
- Predicted Maximum HR: 170
- Age: 55
- Target Heart Rate (HR) Zone (60-85%): 99 – 140
- Predicted Maximum HR: 165
- Age: 60
- Target Heart Rate (HR) Zone (60-85%): 96 – 136
- Predicted Maximum HR: 160
- Age: 65
- Target Heart Rate (HR) Zone (60-85%): 93 – 132
- Predicted Maximum HR: 155
- Age: 70
- Target Heart Rate (HR) Zone (60-85%): 90 – 123
- Predicted Maximum HR: 150
Resting Heart Rate
Your resting heart rate is your pulse when you are calmly sitting or lying. It’s best to measure your resting heart rate it in the morning before you get out of bed, according to the AHA. For adults 18 and older, a normal resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm), depending on the person’s physical condition and age. For children ages 6 to 15, the normal resting heart rate is between 70 and 100 bpm, according to the AHA.
But a heart rate lower than 60 doesn’t necessarily mean you have a medical problem. Active people often have lower heart rates because their heart muscles don’t need to work as hard to maintain a steady beat. Athletes and people who are very fit can have resting heat rate of 40 bpm.
A resting heart rate lower than 60 could also be the result of taking certain medications. “Many medications people take especially medication for blood pressure, such as the beta blockers, will lower your heart rate,” Bauman said.
If coupled with symptoms, a low heart rate may signal a problem.
What Factors Affect Heart Rate?
- Dehydration :When you are dehydrated, the volume of your blood decreases and your heart needs to work harder to pump blood around your body. You may notice a faster heart rate and palpitations (a feeling of being aware of your heartbeat, or that your heart is pounding or beating irregularly). Staying hydrated is an important way to regulate your heart rate and has many other health benefits. Women should aim to drink 6-8 glasses of water per day (or 1.6 litres), and men 8-10 glasses (or 2 litres).
- High air temperatures and humidity: When temperatures and humidity go up, this causes the heart to pump more blood, so the heart rate will go up.
- Obesity: Studies show that obesity causes the heart to beat faster because of high levels of fat in the body lead to a higher amount of blood. This means the heart has to work harder to pump blood.
- Medications: Some medications can affect how fast the heartbeats. High blood pressure medications like beta blockers, for example, can slow the pulse down. On the other hand, taking too much thyroid medication could cause the heart rate to go up.
- Body position: If you’re resting, sitting, or standing, your heart rate will likely remain the same. If you go from lying or sitting to standing, this could cause your heart rate to go up for about 15 to 20 seconds because your heart had to increase its pulse rate to move more blood to your muscles.
- Age: Aging changes the heart and blood vessels, according to the National Institute on Aging. As people get older, their hearts can’t beat as fast during physical activity or times of stress. However, resting heart rates don’t change significantly with age.
- Gender: When it comes to differences in gender, women have average resting heart rates that are higher than men’s, but studies have shown that women typically have a better cardiac function in the face of cardiac disease than men do.
- Emotions: If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, depressed, frustrated, or fearful, your heart rate will go up. This is because these types of emotions release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which tell the heart to beat faster. If you’re feeling relaxed, calm, and safe, your heart rate will drop to a lower level.
- Eating habits: Consuming large amounts of sodium can cause the heart to beat faster. When the body has too much sodium, it tries to dilute it by increasing fluid reabsorption in the kidneys. This results in increased blood volume levels, which makes the heart pump faster. A diet high in saturated fat can indirectly increase heart rates because bad fats result in high cholesterol levels and contribute to changes in cardiac activity.
- Exercise: Evidence shows that exercising regularly decreases the resting heart rate over time and the risk of mortality from having a high resting heart rate.
- Medical conditions: Heart diseases and lung diseases can increase resting heart rate. Overactive thyroid disorders such as Graves’ disease and toxic goiter, are a common cause of elevated heart rate.
- Family history of certain medical conditions: Some heart conditions are hereditary. If you have a family history of heart or blood pressure problems, you might be predisposed to having a higher resting heart rate and an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
How To Lower Heart Rate (Short- And Long-Term Approaches)
If your heart rate is too high there are ways to lower it safely. Your heart rate could be high after exercising or because you’re feeling stressed or anxious.
Here are some fast-acting methods that can help lower a fast heart rate:
- Breathing exercises: You can use your breathing to raise the aortic pressure in your heart, which will lower your heart rate. To do this, close your mouth and nose and raise the pressure in your chest. Breathe in for five to eight seconds, hold it for three to five seconds, and then exhale slowly. This can be repeated several times.
- Taking a bath: This can help relax you and bring your heart rate down.
- Light yoga: Calming yoga or meditation can help relax you and bring a high heart rate down.
- Moving to a cooler location: If your heart rate is raised because you’re too hot, moving to a cooler location will help bring it down.
Here are some long-term solutions that can help you achieve a healthy heart rate:
- Exercising regularly: Starting and keeping an exercise program will help decrease resting heart rates over time.
- Eating healthy: Healthy diets that contain whole grains, leafy greens, fruits, and omega-3 fatty acids are great for supporting long term heart health and will help keep heart disease at bay.
- Quitting smoking: Non-smokers have a lowered risk of recurrent heart attacks and cardiovascular disease.
- Staying hydrated: Drinking enough water allows the heart to pump blood more easily throughout the body.
Why Do I Need To Check My Heart Rhythm?
When you’re checking your pulse, you can also check whether your heart rhythm is regular or irregular. An irregular heart rhythm can be caused by a number of heart rhythm disturbances – the most common is atrial fibrillation, which puts people at a higher risk of a stroke. If you have atrial fibrillation, blood clots are more likely to form in the heart, and if one is pumped out of the heart and travels to the brain, it can cut off the blood supply and cause a stroke. Anticoagulant medication can reduce that risk.
You can ask your doctor to check your heart rhythm, or you can check it yourself at home. If you develop any new symptoms or suspect your pulse is irregular, let your doctor know.
When To Call Your Doctor
The heart is arguably the most important organ in the body. If something goes wrong, the consequences are sometimes fatal. Some heart problems may not be as detrimental as a heart attack, but this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be taken seriously.
You should go to the doctor if your heart rate has been within a normal range and suddenly is not. This might indicate you have a heart problem like arrhythmia which is an abnormal heart rhythm, tachycardia which is when the heart beats consistently at over 100 bpm, or bradycardia which is a low heart rate that’s less than 60 bpm.
“You should seek emergency care if your rapid heart rate is resulting in symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, palpitations, or dizziness,” says Evan Jacobs, MD, the Regional Medical Director in Cardiovascular Services at Conviva Care Centers. “In general, a sustained heart rate above 130 beats per minute, regardless of symptoms, should prompt urgent evaluation. Your primary care doctor or cardiologist should be alerted to rates between 100 and 130 beats per minute and can decide on the need for emergency care on a case-by-case basis.”