Your heart rate is an important measure of your well-being. But if it beats too fast or too slow, it can mean trouble for your heart health.

Your heart rate is a fundamental measure of cardiovascular health. Your heartbeat can change from fast to slow depending on what you do or feel in a certain moment. Stress, hormones, caffeine and how physically active you are, are among a few factors that can affect your heart rate. If your heart rate is high, it can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease. But do you know what a normal heart rate is and when your heart rate is a sign of danger? Let us tell you all about heart rate and how to keep your heart strong.

What is a heart rate?

Heart rate, measured in beats per minute (bpm), signifies the rhythm at which your heart contracts and pumps blood throughout your body. It serves as a vital indicator of overall heart health and fitness level, explains interventional cardiologist Dr Abhijit Borse. If you wish to measure your heart rate, look for your pulse first.

Checking your pulse at your wrist is the easiest way to measure heart rate. Just keep two of your fingers between the bone and the tendon over your radial artery. It is located on your wrist’s thumb side. After you feel your pulse, count the number of beats in 15 seconds then multiply it by four. This way, you will get your heart beats per minute.

Heart rate: Know what’s normal and dangerous
Heart rate serves as a vital indicator of overall heart health. Image courtesy: Freepik

What is an average heart rate?

For most of the adults, the heart rate between 60 and 100 beats per minute is considered to be normal, according to the American Heart Association. However, individual factors such as age, fitness level, and underlying health conditions can influence this baseline. For instance, athletes and people in peak physical condition may exhibit lower resting heart rates, which is indicative of a healthy heart, says the expert.

What is a dangerous heart rate?

A dangerously high heart rate, termed tachycardia, occurs when the heart beats excessively fast, surpassing 110 to 120 bpm at rest. It has been found that a resting heart rate near the 100 bpm or more can increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. This was found in a 2013 study published in the Heart journal. The cardiovascular health of approximately 3,000 people were studied for 16 years. During this time, it was found that a high resting heart rate was linked with higher blood pressure, body weight and lower physical fitness.

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An abnormally slow heart rate, known as bradycardia, also means your heart isn’t healthy if it drops below 40 to 50 bpm at rest, says Dr Borse.

What are the causes of abnormal heart rate?

Abnormal heart rates can stem from various factors, including:

  • Underlying heart conditions such as arrhythmias, coronary artery disease, or heart failure.
  • Electrolyte imbalances or dehydration.
  • Thyroid disorders affecting hormone levels.
  • Chronic stress, anxiety, or panic attacks.
  • Consumption of stimulants like caffeine.
  • Genetic predispositions or congenital heart defects.

When to see a doctor?

Seek medical attention if you experience:

  • Persistent high or low heart rates.
  • Chest pain, discomfort, or pressure.
  • Dizziness, fainting, or lightheadedness.
  • Shortness of breath, especially during physical exertion.
  • Unexplained fatigue or weakness.
  • Irregular heartbeats or palpitations.

Prompt evaluation by a doctor can help identify underlying issues and initiate appropriate interventions to safeguard heart health.

A woman with her hands placed on her heart
Eat nutritious foods for a healthy heart rate. Image courtesy: Freepik

What are the ways to maintain a healthy heart rate?

To maintain a healthy heart rate and promote cardiovascular wellness, consider adopting the following lifestyle practices:

  • Engage in regular aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, jogging, or cycling, to strengthen the heart muscle and improve overall cardiovascular fitness.
  • Follow a balanced diet rich in vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains while limiting saturated fats, cholesterol, and sodium intake.
  • Do meditation or yoga to mitigate the impact of stress on heart rate and your overall well-being.
  • Avoid tobacco products and limit alcohol consumption, as they can adversely affect heart function and elevate heart rate.
  • Maintain a healthy weight through portion control, mindful eating, and regular physical activity to reduce strain on the heart and optimise its efficiency.
  • Monitor and manage underlying health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, or high cholesterol under the guidance of a doctor to prevent complications that may affect heart rate.

Understanding and monitoring your heart rate is crucial for maintaining optimal cardiovascular health. By adopting healthy lifestyle habits and seeking medical care when necessary, you can nurture your heart.

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