So what is your heart rate? Put quite simply, your heart rate is the speed at which your pulse is beating. When you see the acronym BPM, it stands for Beats Per Minute. This is how many beats per minute your heart is pumping. Pulse rates can and do tend to vary from person to person, but are constantly affected by various factors that can elevate or lower your pulse rate. For instance, when your body is at rest your pulse will typically be considerably lower, while when a person is active their pulse will steadily increase. This is because of the demand for oxygen-rich blood that is needed to fuel those activities. When you exercise or even experience extreme emotions your pulse can tend to rise as your body reacts to the external stimuli by demanding an increased output from the heart. The average heart rate is about 100 BPM.
What can affect your heart rate?
There are many factors that can affect your heart rate, many of which are both measurable and observable factors both internal and external. Internal factors are often caused by stress, lack of sleep, and various other forms of emotional and psychological distress that can cause an imbalance in the body. Such effects can come on suddenly and without warning and can cause an elevated heart rate or cause your pulse to drop dangerously low. External factors that can affect your heart rate are not always able to be controlled, but are often far more capable of being avoided.
Here are a few external factors that might affect your heart rate:
When the external temperature rises your heart will pump more blood to your body, while the cold can make it attempt to conserve energy by slowing the pulse, which causes your extremities and other parts of your body to cool down. Normally during hot weather your heart rate will speed up in order to cool the body down, working harder to expel the unneeded heat that would otherwise damage the body. During extremely cold weather the body will do its best to conserve that heat and will therefore slow down.
Your body position can affect your heart rate as well. When standing, sitting, or resting
the same position for a prolonged period of time your heart rate will change and adjust to your
current posture. Upon changing from one position to another your heart rate will generally elevate for a short burst of time, but will become regular once again once you settle. If you add in emotion to the pose, stance, or position then your heart rate can be affected even more depending on the emotion. Most emotions will elevate your heart rate, as they are intense periods of psychological stimulation during which the brain will send continual signals to the heart that increased activity is necessary.
Normally body size won’t affect your pulse. Unfortunately if you’re very obese you might notice a change in your resting pulse. Those who are much larger than others will at times require a quicker resting heart rate to accommodate their size and the blood flow that is needed to keep their body operating under optimal conditions.
There are many medications that can affect your heart rate, either in a positive or negative manner. While some meds are designed to slow your pulse, the general effect of any medication is to keep your pulse steady. Unfortunately some medications can speed your pulse up as they interact with your internal body chemistry. Misuse of medications will often result in an extremely rapid incline in your heart rate, which could prove fatal if it is not addressed by a physician or somehow countered before the user experiences cardiac arrest. Affects to your pulse that are experienced by medications are often unwanted or unaccounted for side effects that are not meant to occur.
How your pulse is affected by illness depends entirely upon how the ailment affects your body. For instance, a fever will increase your pulse rate dramatically as your internal temperature will rise and force your heart to work harder and quicker in order to meet the demands of your body.
When you exercise your body needs that oxygen-rich blood to keep working harder, faster, and to function properly. Your pulse rate will increase quite dramatically based largely upon what kind of activity you choose to perform. As an example, lifting heavy weights or running on an incline will elevate your heart rate far more than performing simple calisthenics or walking on a treadmill.
When your body dehydrates your blood flow becomes sluggish and the bloodstream begins to clog. During this time your heart rate will elevate in an effort to keep the blood flowing and the body well supplied with oxygen-rich blood.
How do you find your heart rate?
The best places to find and measure your heart rate are:
This is one of the more popular and reliable locations to measure your pulse and to gauge your heart rate. Most fitness instructors would recommend using this spot to find your heart rate during most exercises as it is simple and can produce a very strong and reliable sensation.
*Inside of the elbow
Considering where the major veins and arteries are located in the body, it makes sense that this would be another prime location to find a strong pulse. Though not as simple or as exercise-friendly as the wrists, the inside of the elbow can serve as a good spot to find your pulse while resting.
*Side of the neck
Like the wrists this is a very easy spot to find when your heartbeat becomes elevated. Your carotid artery is a prime spot to find your pulse and determine your heart rate, as blood is constantly pumping from your heart to your brain to keep your bodily functions working properly.
*Top of foot
It is most definitely better to use this spot to find your pulse when you are resting or otherwise not busy. The veins that run along the top of your feet are excellent spots to find your heart rate.
In order to get an accurate reading you will need to put your finger over your pulse and count the number of beats that occur in 60 seconds. Your resting heart rate occurs when you are not exercising, feeling any particularly strong emotion, or performing any other type of activity that might raise your pulse. Most commonly if you are resting, relaxed, and not ill your heart rate will be anywhere from 60 to 100 BPM.
Fortunately, a resting heart rate of below 60 isn’t immediate cause for concern, as this could be the result of taking a drug known as a beta blocker, which can lower the heart rate by blocking adrenalin receptors that might otherwise allow external or internal factors to affect your heart rate. You could also have a lower heart rate if you are constantly involved in athletics or other activities that keep you in constant motion. In this case your heart is in much better condition and doesn’t need to work as hard to maintain that steady beat.
How to maintain a healthy heart rate
Keeping your heart rate at a manageable level is very important for your long-term health. There are many ways that this can be accomplished such as cardio exercises, getting enough sleep, changing up your diet, lowering stress, and many more. Here are just a few ways that you can help yourself.
1) Add fish oil to your diet.
Fish oil is very rich in omega-3 fatty acids and be a great benefit to heart health. It can also help to regulate your resting heart rate and keep it at a moderate level. Fish oil is also help to stimulate your heart and make it work more efficiently.
2) Intensify your cardio workouts.
One of the most important parts of maintaining a healthy resting heart rate is to engage in
regular and intense cardio workouts. The act of getting your heart rate up during such exercises
can work to strengthen your body and increase the durability of your parasympathetic nervous
system, which makes it far more reactive to your level of activity and behavior. As a result, once your workout is over your parasympathetic nervous system will be better at recognizing your “resting” state and will be able to keep your heart rate lower. Most fitness instructors recommend at least three to four workouts per week with duration of thirty to forty minutes. This should be enough to effectively drop your resting heart rate to healthier levels.
3) Quit Smoking.
There are numerous reasons to quit smoking, but among them all the effects it has on resting heart rate are very important to take not of. Nicotine is able to provoke a burst of blood pressure that can drive up the heart rate. In order to obtain a lower resting heart rate it is necessary to avoid substances that can cause that often harmful spike to your blood pressure.
4) Practice stress reduction.
As many would attest to this is far easier said than done. Anything you can to do reduce stressful situations in your life can lower inflammation throughout the body and eliminate the chronic presence of stress hormones that elevate your blood pressure. By practicing meditation, yoga, tai-chi, and several other calming methods that require slow, measured movements and the practice of proper breathing, you can lower your resting heart rate and eliminate the unneeded and unwanted stress in your life, promoting calm and a much more moderated heart rate.
5) Get a massage.
Relaxation is one of the main techniques used to lower your heart rate. Treating yourself to a massage might seem to be a luxury, and in fact it is, but it can also provide the necessary relief that can help to reduce your heart rate and bring it back down to acceptable levels. A massage is essentially the manipulation of the body and its many processes through the simple act of working the body’s muscles into a relaxed state, thereby eliminating the chemical responses and lowering the stress levels that can make the body tense and the heart rate increase as a result.
6) Get more sleep.
It is absolutely necessary and vital to a person’s health to get an adequate amount of sleep every night. If your sleep becomes disturbed, restless, or otherwise troubled, your heart rate will jump noticeably in response. Once elevated it is often hard to get your resting heart rate back down, which can create great difficulty in getting the sleep you need. This can cause fatigue, which in turn can continue to affect your resting heart rate, making it jump more often than is necessary.
7) Lose weight.
Excess weight and a propensity for obesity can create a very large amount of stress on a body. Accumulating too much fatty tissue can cause your resting heart rate to climb and create difficulties when attempting to perform normal activities. This causes a strain on the heart that is not at all healthy, even if you are not engaged in what is traditionally thought of as “physical activity”. The hear must work much harder to pump blood to and from the body in order to keep everything working properly. By moderating your diet and engaging in a regular fitness program you can help keep your weight down and your resting heart rate lower.
Your resting heart rate is bound to be different than most other people, but in a healthy individual a resting heart rate can be anywhere from forty to sixty BPM, which is optimal and says that they are active and their heart is quite healthy. A BPM of sixty to one hundred is not necessarily unhealthy, and is quite average. What is important is that you understand the importance of keeping healthy and how you can keep your heart rate at optimal levels.