Your Heart Rate

What Is Your Heart Rate?

Your heart rate, or pulse, is the number of times your heart beats in 1 minute. Heart rates vary from person to person. It’s lower when you’re at rest and higher when you exercise.

Knowing how to find your pulse can help you figure out your best exercise program. If you’re taking heart medications, recording your pulse daily and reporting the results to your doctor can help them learn whether your treatment is working.

Blood pressure vs. heart rate

Your heart rate is separate from your blood pressure. That’s the force of your blood against the walls of your blood vessels.

A faster pulse doesn’t necessarily mean higher blood pressure. When your heart speeds up, like when you exercise, your blood vessels should expand to let more blood pass through.

How Do I Take My Heart Rate?

There are a few places on your body where it’s easier to take your pulse:

  • The insides of your wrists
  • The insides of your elbows
  • The sides of your neck
  • The tops of your feet

Put the tips of your index and middle fingers on your skin. Press lightly until you feel the blood pulsing beneath your fingers. You may need to move your fingers around until you feel it.

Count the beats you feel for 10 seconds. Multiply this number by six to get your heart rate (or pulse) per minute

What Things Affect Heart Rate?

Other than exercise, things that can affect your heart rate include:

  • Weather. Your pulse may go up a bit in higher temperatures and humidity levels.
  • Standing up. It might spike for about 20 seconds after you first stand up from sitting.
  • Emotions. Stress and anxiety can raise your heart rate. It may also go up when you’re very happy or sad.
  • Body size. People who have severe obesity can have a slightly faster pulse.
  • Medications. Beta-blockers slow your heart rate. Too much thyroid medicine can speed it up.
  • Caffeine and nicotine. Coffee, tea, and soda raise your heart rate. So does tobacco.

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What Is a Normal Heart Rate?

A normal resting heart rate is usually between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Your number may vary. Children tend to have higher resting heart rates than adults.

The best time to measure your resting heart rate is just after you wake up in the morning, before you start moving around or have any caffeine.

How to Lower Your Resting Heart Rate

In general, people who are more fit and less stressed are more likely to have a lower resting heart rate. A few lifestyle changes can help you slow it down:

  • Exercise regularly. It raises your pulse for a while, but over time, exercise makes your heart stronger so it works better.
  • Eat right. Losing weight may slow your resting heart rate. And studies have found lower heart rates in men who eat more fish.
  • Tackle stress. Set aside time to disconnect from electronic devices and relax each day. Meditation, tai chi, and breathing exercises can also help.
  • Stop smoking. It’s one of the best things you can do for your overall health.

What Is Maximum Heart Rate?

Your maximum heart rate is, on average, the highest your pulse can get. One way to get a rough estimate of your predicted maximum is to subtract your age from the number 220.

For example, a 40-year-old's predicted maximum heart rate is about 180 beats per minute.

You can learn your actual maximum heart rate with a graded exercise test. If you’re taking medicines or have a medical condition such as heart diseasehigh blood pressure, or diabetes, ask your doctor whether you should adjust your exercise plan to keep your heart rate under a specific number.

What Is Target Heart Rate?

You get the most benefits when you exercise in your ''target heart rate zone.'' Usually, this is when your heart rate (pulse) is 60% to 80% of your maximum. In some cases, your doctor may decrease your target heart rate zone to around 50%.

Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program. They can help you find a routine and target heart rate zone that match your needs, goals, and overall health.

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When you start an exercise program, you may need to slowly build up to your target heart rate zone, especially if you haven’t exercised regularly before. If the exercise feels too hard, slow down. You’ll lower your risk of injury and enjoy the exercise more if you don't try to overdo it.

When you exercise, take a break and check your pulse regularly to find out whether you’re in your target zone. If your pulse is below your target zone, step up the intensity of your workout.

 

Age

Target Heart Rate (HR)

Zone (60%-80%)

Predicted Maximum Heart Rate

20

120-170

200

25

117-166

195

30

114-162

190

35

111-157

185

40

108-153

180

45

105-149

175

50

102-145

170

55

99-140

165

60

96-136

160

65

93-132

155

70

90-128

150

Your Actual Values:

Target HR:

Max. HR:

 

 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on April 30, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

American Heart Association: “Blood Pressure vs. Heart Rate (Pulse),” “Know Your Target Heart Rates for Exercise, Losing Weight and Health,” “All About Heart Rate (Pulse).”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Want to check your heart rate? Here’s how,” “Increase in resting heart rate is a signal worth watching.”

Journal of the American College of Cardiology: “Cardiac function in smokers and nonsmokers: The CARDIA study. The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study.”

Hackensack Meridian Health: “6 Proven Ways to Lower Your Resting Heart Rate.”

Circulation: “Fish Consumption is Associated with Lower Heart Rates.”

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