Your heart rate, aka your pulse, is the number of times your heart beats per minute. It changes throughout the day; depending on what you’re doing. And although it varies from person to person, keeping track of your resting heart rate can be an effective way to gauge your heart health.
Your resting heart rate is when your heart is pumping the lowest amount of blood you need because you’re not exercising. This is when you’re sitting, lying down, relaxed, and not sick. It’s when your heart is beating the slowest.
A higher resting heart rate could mean your heart muscle is working harder to maintain bodily functions. And that could be a sign of trouble.
We asked North Ohio Heart/Ohio Medical Group Cardiologist Dr. David Joyce to help us sort out the reasons why a healthy resting heart rate is so important.
How to Check Your Resting Heart Rate
It’s very easy to check if you have a healthy resting heart rate. It does not take a lot of time and you can do it almost anywhere.
There are four places that are optimal when it comes to checking your pulse. They include:
- inside of your elbow
- side of your neck
- top of the foot
To get the most accurate reading, put your finger over your pulse and count the number of beats in 60 seconds.
You can also count your pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by 6 to find your beats per minute.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the average resting heart rate for children 10 years and older, and adults (including seniors) is 60 - 100 beats per minute.
What If My Resting Heart Rate is Low?
A low resting heart rate is not necessarily a bad thing. It could mean you’re a well-trained athlete, whose resting heart rate can be as low as 40 to 60 beats per minute.
A lower heart rate is common for people who exercise a lot or are very athletic. Active people often have lower heart rates because their heart muscle is in better condition and doesn’t need to work as hard to maintain a steady beat.
A low resting heart rate can also occur if you’re taking a drug such as a beta blocker. They relieve stress on your heart and lower your heart rate.
What If My Resting Heart Rate is High?
A high resting heart rate could be a sign of increased cardiovascular risk.
A study in the medical journal “Heart” found a link between higher resting heart rates and a lack of physical activity, but there are other factors that can affect your heart rate like:
- Emotions—Stress or anxiety may make it higher.
- Body Position—Standing may increase your resting heart rate, but sitting can lower it.
- Medication Use—It may go up or down, depending on the medication.
How Often Should I Check It?
You should check your resting heart rate a few times per week and at different times of the day. Keep in mind that the number can be influenced by many factors, like the ones mentioned above. The Harvard Medical School offers these tips when checking your resting heart rate:
- Do not take your resting heart rate within one to two hours after exercise or a stressful event. Your heart rate can stay elevated after strenuous activities.
- Wait at least an hour after consuming caffeine, which can cause heart palpitations and make your heart rate rise.
- The American Heart Association recommends checking your resting heart rate first thing in the morning (but before you get out of bed).
Keeping track of your resting heart rate can also help you decrease your risk of developing heart disease. You can also try the heart attack risk calculator to assess your risk. Your resting heart rate is a way to give your heart the respect it deserves. This way, you’ll know if something changes, and if it should be addressed.
Another way to decrease your risk for heart trouble is by knowing the facts of heart disease. You can find them in our free guide “The Heart Disease Facts That Could Change Your Life.” Download it today to find out if you’re doing everything in your power to keep your heart healthy.