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Heart Rate – What’s Normal?

The heart is a vital organ of the human body that supplies oxygenated blood to the entire system. It pumps blood through the circulatory system. The pumping of the heart is known as the heart rate of the person. A normal heart rate for adults ranges from 60-100 beats per minute.

What Do You Mean by Heart Rate?

A normal heart rate means that the heart is functioning perfectly well and can transport oxygen, blood, and minerals to all the parts of the body. 

The heart rate is checked by a pulse that you can feel by placing your index and third finger at the wrist , neck etc. You must count your pulse for a minute or count for fifteen seconds and multiply by four to determine the heart rate. The most appropriate time to measure the heart rate is just after waking up.

Heart Rate – What is Not Normal?

An abnormal heart rate is when the heart either beats too fast or too slow. It could also beat irregularly without a definite rhythm. These are termed Arrhythmias .

A few common types of abnormal heart rates are:

  1. Tachycardia – A medical condition when your heart beats faster than normal. These are further sub-classified as supraventricular tachycardia, Ventricular tachycardia, and sinus tachycardia
  2. Bradycardia -This is a condition that develops a slower heart rate than the normal rate.
  3. Tachybrady syndrome (sick sinus syndrome) leads to periods of very fast or slow heart beats
  4. Atrial fibrillation is the most common irregular, generally fast heart rhythm.
  5. Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) is an extremely fast heart rhythm. Most of the SVTs are due to one or more extra electrical pathways between atria and ventricles.
  6. Atrial flutter is generally a fast heart rhythm where atria contract at an extremely fast rate than the ventricles. This can cause atria to beat very fast, sometimes up to 300 beats per minute. 
  7. Heart blocks are caused by delay or a blockage in the conduction system between the top and bottom of heart’s chambers which can cause a slow heart rate.  
  8. Ventricular Fibrillation – A condition wherein the heart rate could stop any time, causing cardiac arrest.
  9. Premature Contractions – This is a condition when your heart seemingly skips a beat.

What are their symptoms?

You can develop one, most or all of the following symptoms when you do not have a normal heart rate. These are:

  • Dizziness
  • Irregular pulse
  • Breaking sweat
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Skin turning pale

When to See a Doctor for the Heart Rate?

You must see the heart doctor when you do not have a normal heart rate. Medical help must be sought in either a very increased heart rate that is more than 100 beats per minute or a very decreased heart rate that is less than 60 beats per minute. You must also visit the doctor immediately if you feel dizzy or develop shortness of breath. 

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What are the Factors Affecting the Normal Heart Rate?

Various factors affect the normal heart rate. These include

  • Weather – The pulse would be a little higher at higher temperatures and higher humidity levels.
  • Suddenly Standing Up – The heart rate would show an increase in the first twenty seconds after you stand up.
  • Emotions – Extreme emotions such as happiness, anxiety, worry, and stress can increase the heart rate.
  • Medications – Your heart rate would be slower if you take medications such as beta-blockers. You may also develop a heart rate above the normal heart rate owing to the intake of a lot of thyroid medicine. Some of the medications that can cause irregular heart rate are drugs that contain amphetamines and beta-blockers.
  • Caffeine – Caffeine and nicotine from coffee, tea, and chocolates have also been shown to increase the normal heart rate.

What are the risk factors of an Abnormal Heart Rate?

Many risk factors can be attributed to an abnormal heart rate. They are:

  • Former heart condition
  • Diabetes and Hypertension
  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Medications – Certain medications such as amphetamines and beta-blockers increase and decrease the heart rate, respectively.

What are the complications of an Abnormal Heart Rate?

Many serious complications arise from an abnormal heart rate. You could develop a cardiac arrest due to ventricular fibrillation. You could also develop heart failure due to prolonged bradycardia or tachycardia.

How to lower the Heart Rate to a normal level?

Lifestyle changes can lower your normal heart rate. Various lifestyle modifications can be employed, such as:

  • Regular Exercise – Exercising regularly would help strengthen the heart muscles and thereby greatly assist in achieving a lower heart rate.
  • Healthy Diet – A diet composed of non-processed, natural, and non-oily food helps in maintaining a balanced diet. This not only keeps your body healthy and within the appropriate weight range but also keeps away metabolic diseases.
  • Mind Relaxation Techniques – Certain mind relaxation techniques and exercises help calm the mind and avoid the stress that can elevate the heart rate.
  • Quitting Smoking – Smoking has shown to elevate the heart rate therefore quitting smoking would prevent such an increase and avoid the complications of an abnormal heart rate.

Conclusion

It is, therefore, essential to maintain a normal heart rate. This can be achieved by staying healthy and eating healthy. This is essential because you would get the maximum benefits when your heart rate is normal.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the difference between blood pressure and heart rate?

Blood pressure and heart rate are completely different. Blood pressure refers to the force of the blood against the blood vessels. A heart rate is the simple measurement of the pulse per minute. Therefore, a faster pulse would not mean higher blood pressure.

What is the highest pulse you can get?

Approximately the highest heart rate for an individual  can be calculated by subtracting the age from 220. Therefore, a 60-year-old can have the highest heart rate of 160 beats per minute. 

You can also learn the maximum heart rate with a particular exercise called the graded exercise test that assesses blood and oxygen supply during exercise.

Why does a trained athlete have a low heart rate?

A trained athlete has a heart rate of 30 to 40 beats per minute. It is a low resting heart rate because a trained athlete exercises and strengthens the heart muscles. This lets the heart pump a larger volume of blood with each beat.

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Verified By Dr Prasant Kumar Sahoo
MD, DM (CARD. MUMBAI), FRCP (LOND & GLASG), FACC, FSCAI (USA), FESC, FAPSIC, FICC, FCSI, FISE, FIAE, FISC, Sr. Consultant Cardiologist , Director of Interventional Cardiology, Advisor to Deaprtment of Cardiology , Apollo Hospitals, Bhubaneswar
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