Do you have a healthy heart? If yes, how do you know that? If your defence is that you exercise regularly. Yes, you may be right. But it’s good to always be sure. Apart from certain health tests, a heart rate also gives a picture of your heart health and cardiovascular picture.

The heart rate doesn’t only vary from person to person but also changes throughout the day, with changes in your activity levels. So, if you happen to wear a fitness tracker or use exercise machines with pulse sensors, you must have seen them measuring your heart rate.

But what does this heart rate exactly tell you? It’s more than just a number on display.

This blog will shed light on the basics of heart rate, and exactly what it tells about your health.

Brushing the basics of heart rate

The number of times your heart beats in a minute is called heart rate. The heart rate differs from person to person, but having an abnormally high or low heart rate could be an indication of a health issue. There are two heart rates we are talking about here, active heart rate and resting heart rate.

Active heart rate

As the name suggests, an active heart rate is the number of times your heart beats in a minute during a physical activity.  When you are engaging in a vigorous activity, your heart rate tends to go higher. The target should be 148-162 beats per minute. But this number varies as per age.  The normal heart rate by age also depends on other factors which we will discuss later.

Mind you, there is a difference between maximum heart rate and active heart rate. The active targetted heart rate ideally should be 50-80% of your maximum heart rate. The maximum normal heart rate also varies according to age. To calculate the normal heart rate by age, you must subtract your age from 220.

Let’s say you’re 30 years old, your maximum normal heart rate by age should be 220-30 = 190. The targetted heart rate during exercise should be 50-85% of this number. The percentage once again differs according to the activity level, moderate intensity or vigorous. Whatever the case, you shouldn’t let it cross 85%, which as per this example is, 161. Do not push yourself beyond that. It can be detrimental and fatal causing heart failure, heart attacks, and cardiac arrests.

Resting heart rate

Resting heart rate is the heart rate when you’re resting. It is the time when your heart pumps a low amount of blood, as there is no need (need arises when you’re indulging in a physical activity). A normal resting heart rate should be between 60-100 beats per minute.  Generally, a lower resting heart rate indicates more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness.

Athletes tend to have a lower heart, between 40-60 beats per minute. However, if a person who doesn’t exercise regularly has this low heart rate, it’s a call for medical help.

 How to measure heart rate?

You can use fitness trackers to measure heart rate. However, it can also be measured manually, through your pulse. To check your pulse through the wrist, put two fingers between the bone and the tendon over your radial artery — which is found on the thumb side of your wrist. Once you begin feeling your pulse, count the beats in 15 seconds. Multiply this number by 4 to calculate beats per minute. Pulse can also be measured through the carotid artery, which is located on the side of your neck, below your jawbone.

Mind you, there is a difference between your heart rate and pulse rate. Likewise, your blood pressure and heart rate are also different.

In short, the pulse is a measuring tool for your heart rate, as established before. As for blood pressure and heart rate, blood pressure is the force of your blood against the blood vessel walls. That being said, a rapid pulse doesn’t necessarily mean high blood pressure. When your heart speeds up, like when you exercise, the blood vessels should expand to let more blood pass through.

What could affect your normal heart rate by age?

Your normal heart rate by age is affected by a number of factors, including:

  • Weather
  • Emotions
  • Weight
  • Medications
  • Caffeine
  • Hormones
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Anemia
  • Low blood pressure
  • Infection
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Stress levels
  • Smoking

Closing thoughts

To sum up, your heart rate is a crucial indicator which can be used to assess your heart health and fitness levels, monitoring medical treatments and your recovery from surgeries and heart diseases. The heart rate varies according to age. You can consider investing in fitness trackers that measure heart rate to devise a fitness program and know when to stop during workouts. It can be used to improve your overall health and wellness. It can also help in cautioning you against a health issue, facilitating immediate contact with your doctor or health emergencies.

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