When you go to the doctor, the nurse will check your respiratory rate, blood pressure, temperature, and heart rate. Your pulse is measured to determine your heart rate, which is an important indicator of your overall health. Checking your heart rate can clue doctors in to certain medical conditions and help you make lifestyle changes to help improve your heart rate and therefore have a positive impact on your health. Everyone’s heart rate is different, and can change over time with different factors.
What is Resting Heart Rate?
Resting heart rate (RHR) is also referred to as basal heart rate. Your resting heart rate is measured while your body is at rest and is an average of your heart beats per minute (bpm). The measurement is taken in a neutrally temperate environment. A resting heart rate is a good indicator of your heart health and fitness levels, and having a lower resting heart rate is generally a good sign. The average resting heart rate is between 60-100 beats per minute for people over the age of 15.
When your heart rate is lower, it means that each heartbeat is more effective, and a lower heart rate shows that you have a strong heart muscle that can pump enough blood to the body to help supply the body with oxygen with little effort. If your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to push blood through your body in order to supply oxygen, your fitness level increases.
Why Is Resting Heart Rate Important?
If your heart rate is too low or too high, especially if it’s a wider range from what your usual resting heart rate is, it can be a sign of poor health or medical issues. If your resting heart rate is higher, this can signal anemia, thyroid problems, or abnormal hormone levels. When your resting heart rate is too low, it can cause fatigue, fainting, lightheadedness, or dizziness, which can be dangerous. While different heart rates can reflect certain medical conditions, it doesn’t always mean that there is something going on. Tracking your heart rate over time can be a good idea to have a baseline of your resting heart rate.
Do Men or Women Have Higher Heart Rates?
Physically men have larger hearts than women do and because of that each time the heart beats the woman’s heart produces less blood flow. Because of this, the woman’s heart needs to pump faster in order to have the necessary output. A woman’s average resting heart rate is about 3.5 beats per minute higher for women than men. The average resting heart rate for men is around 55 beats per minute, and women is around 58 beats per minute for more active adults. For the rest of the population over the age of 15, anything between 60-100 beats per minute is considered average.
What is a Good Resting Heart Rate by Age and Gender?
As we get older, our resting heart rate changes. It increases until we reach about 40 years old, and then levels off after that milestone. Note that it’s important to realize that there is a difference between normal maximum heart rate during physical activity and your target heart rate for your age. You can subtract your age from 220 to calculate your normal maximum heart rate. Here are the ranges for each age group:
- Newborns 0-1 month old- 70 to 190 beats per minute
- Infants 1-11 months old- 80 to 160 beats per minute
- Children 1-2 years old- 80 to 130 beats per minute
- Children 3-4 years old- 80 to 120 beats per minute
- Children 5-6 years old- 75 to 115 beats per minute
- Children 7-9 years old- 70 to 110 beats per minute
- Children 10 years older to elderly- 60 to 100 beats per minute
- Athletes in training condition- 40 to 60 beats per minute
A target heart rate should be about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate while performing moderate-intensity activities like walking. When you’re doing more intense activity like lifting weights, running, and exercising, your target heart rate should be around 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.
Here are the target heart rate zones and average maximum heart rates by age for healthy adults from the American Heart Association:
TARGET HEART RATE ZONE (50% TO 85%)
AVERAGE MAXIMUM HEART RATE (100%)
100 to 170 bpm
95 to 162 bpm
90 to 153 bpm
85 to 145 bpm
80 to 136 bpm
75 to 128 bpm
What Factors Affect Heart Rate?
There are multiple factors that can affect heart rate, so being aware of these can help you get your heart rate into a healthy range. If your body has been under prolonged stress, it can increase resting heart rate and put you at a higher risk for stroke and heart attack.
It’s been reported that the majority of the people that experience stress notice an increase in their resting heart rate over 60% of the time. Different emotions like joy and happiness can also raise the resting heart rate.
Other factors that can affect resting heart rate include:
- Being pregnant can increase resting heart rate due to extra blood flowing throughout the body.
- Being overweight can be associated with an elevated resting heart rate as there’s a correlation between heart rate and body mass index.
- Chronic sleep deprivation can raise resting heart rate while it also lowers your metabolism.
- Health issues like hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and anemia can also affect resting heart rate. Whether it increases or decreases the rate depends on the health conditions.
- External factors like high humidity and higher air temperatures can raise resting heart rate.
- Certain medications such as beta blockers, migraine medications, and blood pressure medications can lower resting heart rate.
- Drinking caffeinated drinks and coffee can cause a temporary increase in resting heart rate.
- Allergy medications and decongestants can increase resting heart rate.
- Drinking alcohol can raise resting heart rate.
- Smoking increases resting heart rate, but research shows that within a day of stopping smoking resting heart rate can decrease 5-15 beats per minute and can remain at that level for at least one year.
- Your body position can impact your resting heart rate, and it can be higher when you’re sitting versus lying down. When you get up, your resting heart rate can increase.
What Do Resting Heart Rates Indicate?
Resting heart rate tends to remain generally stable from day to day while your heart rate can vary from moment to moment. Depending on your age, gender, and other factors, there is a wide range of normal resting heart rate. However, if you’re experiencing unusually low or high resting heart rates may indicate a health problem.
Typically, in adults having a lower resting heart rate is linked to a higher degree of fitness and a lower risk of cardiac events. Having a consistently higher resting heart rate may be linked to cardiovascular problems.
Can You Improve Your Resting Heart Rate?
Now that you have all this information, you may be wondering if it’s possible to improve your resting heart rate. Fortunately, beginning to improve your resting heart rate can be as simple as walking out the door.
During the activity (such as a brisk walk), your heart rate will rise during the activity and for a period of time after, but daily exercise ends up gradually decreasing your resting heart rate. Activities like bicycle riding, swimming, and other activities that target your aerobic heart rate zone can also help lower your resting heart rate and improve your overall physical fitness level.
If you aren’t currently physically active, starting out with some gentle exercises like yoga or walking can be a good way to get your body in shape to improve your resting heart rate. Your heart, like every other muscle in your body, requires physical activity to keep it healthy. Exercising regularly improves overall health by helping to manage risk factors for circulatory issues, heart disease, and diabetes. Not only does exercise help with all of these, but it also boosts mood and energy while aiding in getting a good nights’ sleep.
Monitor Your Resting Heart Rate
Being aware of your resting heart rate and tracking it over time can keep an eye on your overall health. Whether you’re an athlete or just starting to exercise, tracking your heart rate is so important. Using a heart rate monitor can be an easy way to track your resting heart rate, and it will automatically do all the work for you. There are many options available for you to choose from, and there’s certainly a monitor that will work for your needs. Improving your health is easily within your hands!