Resting heart rate is a person’s heart rate when they are not performing any physical activity – they are at rest. A normal resting heart rate is between 60 to 100 beats per minute. Essentially, the lower the resting heart rate is the more efficient your heart functions. A low resting heart rate is also a signifier of better cardiovascular fitness. A resting heart rate below 60 bpm is often seen in athletes, and it’s not abnormal for their resting heart rate to be as low as 40.
The good news is, no matter what your resting heart rate is, you can improve it and in turn improve your heart function. Below you will find normal ranges for resting heart rate based on age, the contributing factors for a higher resting heart rate, along with tips on how to improve your resting heart rate.
The below charts reveal healthy ranges for resting heart rate based on sex and age.
High heart rate at rest is linked to a higher risk of death even in physically fit healthy people, according to research findings. The researchers tracked the health of almost 3,000 men for 16 years.
At the start of the study, all participants were interviewed by a doctor to evaluate their health and lifestyle. Cardiorespiratory fitness was also assessed using a cycling test.
About 15 years later, the researchers followed up with some of the participants for an additional check-up. Sixteen years after, the researchers checked to see if the participants were still alive. Nearly four of 10 of the men had died by then.
High resting heart rate was associated with lower physical fitness, high blood pressure and weight, and higher levels of circulating fats. Men who were more physically active had lower resting heart rates.
The study showed that the higher the resting heart rate, the higher the risk of mortality, regardless of physical fitness level.
The researchers concluded, “We found that irrespective of level of physical fitness, subjects with high resting heart rates fare worse than subjects with lower heart rates. This suggests that a high resting heart rate is not a mere marker of poor physical fitness, but is an independent risk factor.”
Your resting heart rate is determined by the activity of your central nervous system, levels of circulating hormones, and cardiorespiratory fitness. While the correlation between a high level of cardiorespiratory fitness and a low resting heart rate is well known, the researchers of the study wanted to remove all confounding factors to find out exactly why this is. Previously done studies relied on self-reported physical activity and objectively measured physical fitness. This is what prompted a more thorough investigation.
The results of the study demonstrated a correlation between VO2Max and resting heart rate. This means that subjects with higher levels of fitness were more likely to have lower resting heart rates.
Overall, it was found that subjects with elevated resting heart rates were at significantly greater risk of mortality, with a resting heart rate in the range of 51 to 81 beats per minute being associated with about a 40 to 50 percent increase in risk. Having a resting heart rate in the range 81 to 90 beats per minute a twofold risk increase, with those over 90 beats per minute a threefold risk increase.
Surmising all the obtained data, there was no doubt that elevated resting heart rate is not merely a marker of poor general fitness but rather it should be treated as an independent risk factor for overall mortality.
A resting heart rate is one of the most important numbers you should know, as it can be used to track your fitness level and target your workouts. A resting heart rate can even alert you to potential health-related conditions. The following are some of the things your resting heart rate can tell you:
You’re not active enough: If your heart rate exceeds that of the average adult (60-100 beats per min) this may mean that your heart is less efficient at pumping blood.
You’re overtraining: Keeping an eye on your heart rate during exercise regimens can be a good measure of when you should start to scale it back a bit. Working out too hard, and thus at high heart rates, can mean you are working out more than is required.
You’re too stressed: Mental and emotional stress can wreak havoc on your resting heart rate, making it creep up over time. If stress remains constant for long periods of time, it can lead to a higher risk of heart attacks, strokes, and much more.
You’re sleep deprived: Not getting enough sleep can lead to fatigue, a lower metabolism, and excessive snacking and calorie intake. Not getting enough sleep can also lead to increases in resting heart rate.
You’re dehydrated: Having a dry mouth, noticing your urine is more yellow than normal, and even a slightly higher resting heart rate may indicate you are dehydrated. Drinking more water, especially during hot days of the year, will help remedy this.
You’re developing a medical condition: Experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath, unusual fatigue, dizziness, and excessive thirst combined with an increase to your resting heart rate may indicate an underlying condition. These symptoms may present with medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, hyperthyroidism, or type 2 diabetes. Speaking to your doctor as soon as possible is highly recommended in such cases.
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 measurement, you should be at complete 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.
Additionally, it is important to recognize that resting heart rate tends to increase with age. Also, certain medications may also affect our resting heart rate, as drugs used to treat asthma, depression, obesity, and attention deficit disorder can lead to it increasing.
To measure your resting heart rate, ensure you are relaxed and comfortable. Stay seated and motionless between five to 10 minutes to fully relax. Once well relaxed, locate your pulse, which can be easily done 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:
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.
Have a higher than normal resting heart rate should prompt you to be suspicious about your overall cardiovascular health. Referring back to the heart rate chart, you can easily find which category you fall into. If you do find yourself having an abnormally high resting heart rate, seeing your doctor about its potential cause will help reduce your chances of succumbing to an untimely death.