Whenever a medical professional wants to quickly assess your heart health, they might check your heart rate. Heart rate is a measure of how many times your heart is beating per minute.
A normal resting heart rate, or a heart rate when a person is inactive, can range from 60 to 100 beats per minute (BPM). However, some medical experts believe the healthiest range is around 50 to 70 BPM.
What affects heart rate?
Many biological factors can affect your heart rate including your age, body size and current body position. If you have a fever or slept poorly, you might notice a higher heart rate.
Your fitness level is another factor to consider. People who are more active may have lower resting heart rates. An athlete’s resting heart rate might even go below 50 BPM.
Psychological factors, such as your emotional state, can also influence your BPM. If you’re feeling stressed out, you’ll notice your heart rate increase.
Smoking will also increase your heart rate. And that’s just one of many ways smoking can have a negative effect on your overall health.
Some medications can influence how fast your heart beats. Substances with caffeine, including coffee and tea, can elevate your heart rate as well.
How to check heart rate at home
Wondering how to calculate resting heart rate on your own?
One convenient method involves an electronic fitness tracker. These devices can come in many forms, including a watch or chest strap. Some workout machines even have a built-in BPM monitor, so you can see your heart rate at a glance.
You don’t need high-tech equipment to determine your heart rate though. The following techniques will also get the job done.
Note that it’s best to check your heart rate in the morning, before you have your morning cup of coffee or tea. Measuring it after a workout will also give you an inflated number.
- Radial pulse: use your middle and pointer finger to find a pulse at the base of your thumb, along the inside fold of your wrist. Count the beats for 15 seconds. Multiply that number by four to determine your BPM.
- Carotid pulse: use your middle and pointer finger to find a pulse on the side of your windpipe, just under your jawbone. You can find it on either side of your neck. Count the beats for 15 seconds and multiply that number by four.
- Pedal and brachial pulse: you can use the same technique to find a pulse on the top of your foot and near the inner crease of your elbow. It’s common for doctors to use the latter method to determine heart rate in children.
What is a dangerous heart rate?
A low heart rate is fairly normal for athletic people. However, if you’re not an active person, a heart rate that’s less than 60 BPM may indicate an underlying problem. For example, it could be a sign of congenital heart disease or an inflammatory disease. Look for accompanying signs of trouble, such as weakness, chest pain and dizziness.
A resting heart rate that stays over 100 BPM is another potential sign of trouble. It could be the result of anemia or heart disease. You might also notice other symptoms such as dizziness, palpitations, headache or chest pain.
If you have any concerns about your heart rate, never hesitate to reach out to a medical professional.
Learn about the heart and vascular services we offer at Bon Secours.