High resting heart rate and lower heart rate variation increases the risk of heart disease in older adults. Researcher Dr. Behnam Sabayan wrote, “It has been hypothesized that heart rate and heart rate variability are markers of frailty, an increased vulnerability to stressors and functional decline. However, the direct link between these two parameters and risk of functional decline has not been fully established.”
Heart rate variability is the beat-to-beat variation in heart rate intervals.
To determine whether heart rate and heart rate variability are correlated with one’s ability to carry out daily activities, the research team looked at data taken from 5,804 people over the age of 70 with heart disease risk factors. The researchers measured the participants’ performance of their daily living activities.
Dr. Sabayan continued, “Because functional disability develops gradually, it is important to identify it early and take steps to delay decline, such as exercise, medication and other interventions. This is especially important with an aging population, which could mean rising numbers of people who have problems with daily functioning.”
Participants were followed for an average of 3.2 years and uncovered that those with the highest resting heart rate had nearly an 80 percent higher risk of decline in performing basic activities. Those with the lowest heart rate variability had about a 25 percent reduction in completing daily activities.
The authors concluded, “Higher resting heart rate and lower heart rate variability were associated with worse functional performance at baseline and with higher risk of future functional decline in older adults at high cardiovascular risk.”
How to measure and improve heart rate
There are many different factors that can contribute to a higher or lower heart rate, including activity level, fitness level, air temperature, body position, emotions and stress level, body size, medications, food and drink, and illness. Depending on these factors, you may find you have a higher or lower heart rate. To get the most accurate resting heart rate measurements, you should be completely at rest. Measuring your heart rate during activity will render higher numbers, and if you go by those readings you may think your heart is at risk.
To measure your resting heart rate, ensure you are relaxed and comfortable. Stay seated and motionless between five and 10 minutes to fully relax. Once well-relaxed, locate your pulse by applying pressure with your index and middle fingers on the inside of your wrist – there is your radial artery.
Use a watch with a second hand and count how many beats you feel within 10 seconds. Complete this test two to three times to find your average number and multiply that number by six. For example, if you count 12 beats within the ten-second span, your resting heart rate is 72 beats per minute (12×6 = 72).
There are many natural ways for improving your resting heart rate. Here’s what you can do:
- Exercise regularly
- Reduce stress
- Quit smoking
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Reduce your intake of caffeine
- Sleep well
By ensuring your resting heart rate is in a healthy range, you can reduce the risk of heart-related complications and improve your heart function.