What Your Resting Heart Rate Can Tell You About Your Health

I am sure you have noticed over your lifetime that when you exercise or get startled, your heart beats faster. You may even check your heart rate while working out to measure the effectiveness of your workout. However, do you ever think about your heart rate when you are resting? Our resting heart rate (RHR), is defined by Harvard as "the number of heartbeats per minute while you're at rest." And your RHR can tell you a lot about your health and fitness level.

How To Measure Your Resting Heart Rate

Your RHR changes as you age and varies from person to person. However, it can be essential to know your RHR to help assess the health of your heart over time. It can also help you uncover a heart condition early.

To take your pulse, place your index finger and your middle finger on one of your pulse points. (Most commonly, your wrist or side of your neck.) Then count the number of heartbeats for 15 seconds, then multiply that number by 4. You mustn't use your thumb as it has a pulse and could mess up your reading.

As you want to measure you're RESTING heart rate, you want to do this when you are completely relaxed. The best time to check you RHR is when you wake up in the morning before you get out of bed.

What Is A Normal Resting Heart Rate?

As I said, a lot of factors can affect your RHR such as genetics, age and fitness level. However, a standard resting heart rate for adults is between 60 beats per minute (bpm) and 100bpm. You want to try to get your heart rate closer to 60bpm than 100bmp but anywhere within this range is excellent.

Having an RHR under 60bpm doesn't mean that you are not healthy. Many athletes and other fit individuals typically have lower heart rates, sometimes as little as 40bpm. However, if you don't think you fall into that category, you should get check out by your doctor as it could mean there is insufficient blood flow to essential parts of the body, which could result in fainting, being short of breath or feeling dizzy or light-headed.

On the other hand, it can also be dangerous if your RHR is too high. If its too fast it can be caused by a health condition such as poor circulation, anemia, hypertension or injury to the heart, such as a heart attack. If you have an RHR too high or too low for an extended period, it could potentially be dangerous to your health, and I would recommend going to see a doctor.

What Can Affect Your Resting Heart Rate?

  • Temperature: When the heat and humidity rises, your heart needs to pump more blood. Which means your pulse may increase.

  • Body Position: Your pulse is usually similar when you are resting, whether you are sitting or standing. However, it can increase for a few minutes after you change position from sitting to standing or vice versa.

  • Emotions: Many different emotions like being stressed, excited or upset can raise your pulse.

  • Body Size: If you are overweight, your RHR could be higher than average as your heart needs to work harder to circulate blood throughout your body.

  • Medications: Some medications that blog your adrenaline (beta-blockers) can slow your RHR. On the other hand, drugs like high doses of thyroid medication can raise it.

  • Water: Being dehydrated can raise your RHR

How Can You Decrease Your Resting Heart Rate

  • Exercise: Yes, exercise will raise your heart rate temporarily, however, over time, your body becomes more efficient, and your RHR can lower naturally.

  • Reduce Stress: This is easier said than done, but studies have shown that stress-relieving activities such as meditation, yoga and tai chi may lower your resting heart rate over time.

  • Stop smoking/don't start smoke: People who smoke often have a higher resting heart rate because of what the cigarettes do to the body. Quitting can reverse this over time.

  • Lose weight: As I mentioned above if you are overweight, your body has to work harder to keep your blood pumping. Shredding a few kilos takes some of the stress off your heart and can lower your resting heart rate.

  • Diet: A whole food plant-based diet can lower your RHR naturally. Try adding beans, chickpeas or lentils into your diet.

  • Sleep: Sleep is the primary time when your body can recover and heal itself and studies have shown that having disturbed sleep can negatively impact your RHR. Aim to get at least 8 hours of sleep nightly.

Even if you don't have any issues with your RHR, you should still exercise regularly, not smoke and get plenty of sleep as this can always make a potential improvement to your health.

Keep Your Doctor Informed Of Your Resting Heart Rate

Please note I am not a doctor, and this article is not meant to diagnose or treat you. It is intended to help you understand one aspect of your health, your resting heart rate. Everyone is different and has unique circumstances. Consult with your doctor about any changes in your health, diet, and exercise.

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