The heart rate is a measurement of the number of times a heart beats per minute (bpm). A heart rate that is higher or lower than the determined healthy range could be an indication of a heart condition or other health issue. The healthy resting heart rate (a.k.a. normal heart rate) for men and women is between 50 and 70 bpm. Lower resting rates usually indicate that the heart is working more efficiently. Slower heart rates have been shown to have statistically lower chances of having cardiovascular disease.
There are also non-health factors that can affect heart rate: whether an individual is sitting or standing, their emotional state, or the air temperature around them. Heart rates are expected to fluctuate, but any rates consistently beyond the approved range could be a cause for concern. If the heart rate rises suddenly without obvious cause or feelings of dizziness occur, contact a medical professional immediately.
How to Determine Your Heart Rate
Fortunately, there is a very simple method for detecting your own heart rate. Hold two fingers to the strongest pulse points and record the number of beats within 60 seconds.
The best places for pulse detection are:
- Side of the neck
- Inside the elbow
- Top of the foot
Slow Heart Rate
Heart rates can be on the lower end without concern if the individual is physically fit, sleeping, or on a medication like a beta blocker. However, if a heart rate is slower than 50 bpm for reasons other than those listed, it is considered to have bradycardia, which means “slow heart.” This can indicate heart disease (heart attack), Lyme disease, typhoid fever, hyperkalemia or an underactive thyroid gland. One should also be concerned if one is unable to raise their heart rate even while exercising.
Fast Heart Rate
Rigorous exercise, stimulants (like caffeine or cocaine), or being in an excited state are all normal causes for an accelerated heart rate. Pregnancy and dehydration are physical conditions that will also cause the heart rate to rise. Tachycardia is the condition where the heart is beating too quickly (above 100 bpm). This condition may show no symptoms, but if untreated can cause heart complications and irreversible abnormalities.
Doctors recommend cardiovascular activity to help slow a fast heart rate. Increased exercise strengthens the heart and improves the normal heart rate by helping this vital organ to function more efficiently. When the heart doesn’t have to work as hard to supply blood cells with oxygen, the heart rate will slow. The American Heart Association states the maximum heart rate should never exceed 200 bpm. This maximum number decreases with age. A 20-year-old adult’s maximum heart rate is 200 bpm, compared to a 50-year-old’s maximum being 170 bpm.
Monitoring your heart rate is important. Your heartbeat serves as a reliable indicator of your fitness level and overall health. Luckily, it can easily be determined with your own fingers and a stopwatch. Contact a medical professional if you are concerned that you don’t have a normal heart rate. If your beats per minute are lower than 50 bpm or higher than 100 bpm, visit one of our clinics that is part of the UrgentMED Network. The caring and knowledgeable medical staff can provide a quick examination in the Los Angeles area – where walk-ins are always welcome.