What is a normal heart rate? That’s a very good question. There has been some debate about what exactly qualifies as “normal” and what constitutes a cause for concern. There are several mitigating factors that can be part of determining your heart rate, including age, medications, and even the weather. Heart rate can change as you age, lowering slightly but not significantly, and it will differ for those who are more active.
Your heart rate, or pulse, is simply the number of times the heart beats in a minute. You can determine your pulse by laying two fingers on one of the main pulse points. These include the inside of the wrist, the side of the neck, the inside of your elbow or the top of your foot. Then just count the beats you feel in one minute. A resting heart rate is the number of beats per minute when you are sitting still or lying down. It should be lower than your heart rate while exercising or moving about.
A more effective way to measure your heart rate is by using a heart rate monitor, which many people like to do while exercising to try to stay in their ideal zone.
For most healthy adults, a normal heart rate while resting is considered to be anything between 60-100 beats per minute. Your heart rate can spike momentarily when you stand up or if you experience extreme stress or emotion and will generally correct itself after a few seconds. Taking certain medications can also affect your heart rate. For instance, certain thyroid medications can increase heart rate while beta blockers, which curtail adrenaline production, may actually slow your heart rate.
There are certain factors which can affect your resting heart rate, among them body size, body position and changes in the weather. In most cases, body size won’t affect heart rate but in extremely obese people it might be possible to see a slightly higher rate. Again, changing your body position abruptly can cause a brief spike in heart rate. Also, higher air temperatures can cause heart rate to rise as the heart works a little harder to pump blood in hot temperatures.
While your normal heart rate may decrease slightly as you age, there is no significant difference in rate between men and women. Even the change in older individuals is not very drastic. Your normal rate likely won’t vary by more than a couple of beats per minute. This slight drop is due to the weakening of the heart muscle as we age.
The important thing to remember about a resting heart rate is that it can differ from one individual to another. What is normal for you may not be for someone else. In order to have a better idea of the state of your own health, you need to learn what your regular heart rate is so that you can recognize any significant differences that may be a warning sign of serious trouble.
In most individuals, an occasional rise in heart rate is not an issue. It is when you have frequent spikes in your heart rate or when your heart rate gets very low that you need to be concerned. This is especially true if these changes to your normal heart rate are accompanied by a feeling of dizziness or faintness. If this occurs, you should contact your doctor as you may need immediate medical attention.
Remember, your heart rate is an important tool for monitoring your overall health. The more aware you are of what your heart normally feels like, the better you’ll be able to identify any problems should they occur. This way you have a better chance of heading off trouble and keeping your whole body working the way it should be. When it comes to your resting heart rate, normal can be a relative term, so don’t panic if you’re not measuring up to anyone else. Find your own “normal” and you’ll be well on your way to being a healthier you.