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Is My Heart Rate Normal? Here’s How To Tell

February 22, 2021

If you’re sitting between a marathon runner and a woman who’s eight months pregnant, all three of you will have different heart rates. Had a triple shot of espresso this morning? Your heart might be racing. Just had a relaxing massage at the spa? We bet your “ticker” is taking its time today.

Between 60 to 100 beats per minute is the average for a heart at rest. But an athlete’s resting heart rate could fall between 40 to 50 beats per minute, and emotion and daily stressors can affect heart rate, too. Feeling a little anxious before your doctor’s visit? You’ll likely see an elevated heart rate when checking your vitals.

Regularly monitoring your heart rate during the day can help to determine what’s normal for you, taking into account your age, fitness level and lifestyle. 

Resting vs. Active Heart Rates

Cardiologists use two heart rates to determine a patient’s average: resting and active. The resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats each minute while your body is at rest. Your active heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute while you are exercising.

Knowing your resting and active heart rates can be the first step in evaluating  your heart health. Research shows that higher resting heart rates are linked to cardiovascular disease and sudden cardiac events such as stroke, heart attack and death.

Your active heart rate is a significant factor in how much oxygen your body needs to function properly, also known as “aerobic capacity.” Studies have shown that those with higher aerobic capacity have a lower risk of heart attack and death, according to Harvard Medical School.

Active heart rates are largely dependent on age. Your maximum heart rate indicates how fast your heart needs to beat in order for exercise to truly benefit your heart and body. To calculate maximum average heart rate for exercise, subtract your age from 220. The target maximum average heart rate is 70 percent to 80 percent of that number. For example, if you’re 50 years old, your maximum average heart rate is 70 percent to 80 percent of 170 — so between 109 and 129 beats per minute.

Exercise Key to Improving Resting Heart Rate

Vigorous activity trains your heart, helps you lose weight and can lower your resting heart rate over time.

If you’re just starting out, begin with light physical activity. From there, increase your intensity and monitor how your body responds. If you start exercising and reach 50 percent of your target maximum heart rate, it won’t be much more than your resting heart rate. Over time, you’ll gradually increase your average active heart rate, leading to a healthier heart overall.

Think you’re working out too hard? You might be if you’re feeling:

●      Chest pain

●       Shortness of breath

●       Dizziness/lightheadedness

If that happens, it could be time to take a breather or lower your intensity.

Getting fit takes time, so take it slow and be patient. If you’re noticing these symptoms for the first time, or if any of them persist, seek medical attention to ensure it’s safe to continue.

SIDEBAR: How To Check Your Baseline Heart Rate

Here’s an easy way to calculate your baseline heart rate:

  1. Use your thumb or index finger to find the radial artery. It’s located in your wrist directly below the thumb. Press down gently and you’ll find your pulse.

  2. Count the number of beats you feel in 30 seconds.

  3. Multiply that number by 2 to find the beats per minute.

Check your heart rate three times during the day. Since your heart rate tends to be slower in the morning, check your heart rate again in the afternoon when you’re going about your day. Check again when exercising to reach the maximum percentages for cardiovascular fitness.


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