Heart rate (also known as pulse rate) is the number of times your heart beats in one minute.
Your heart rate is one of the critical measures of heart health. Heart rate denotes how well your heart supplies “oxygen-rich blood” to the rest of your body. Generally, having a lower resting heart rate (measured when you are not active) implies that your heart is more efficient and healthier.
This article explains resting heart rate, how it’s measured, the ideal range for heart rate, and tips to lower the heart rate immediately & in the long term.
Resting Heart Rate
Obviously, resting heart rate is measured when you are completely at rest. To calculate, find your pulse at the thumb side of your wrist or your neck to the side of your windpipe. Position the pads of your index and middle fingers gently over the artery and feel your pulse/heartbeat. Count the number of beats for 60 seconds. Or you may count for 30 seconds and multiply by two or count for 15 seconds and multiply by four. But taking the count for a full minute is most accurate.
Note: It is best to count your pulse (resting heart rate) after periods of rest. For this reason, it’s ideal for measuring your heartbeat first thing in the morning before getting out of bed.
Normal Resting Heart Rate
Adults’ normal resting heart rate ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute. However, several factors can influence your heart rate. Generally, a lower resting heart rate implies more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness. Higher than 100 is tachycardia (“fast heart”); less than 60 is bradycardia (“slow heart”). But some experts believe that an ideal heart rate at rest is closer to 50 to 70. Irrespective of what is considered normal, it’s important to remember that a healthy heart rate will vary depending on the situation. For example, while a well-trained athlete might have a normal resting heart rate closer to 40 beats per minute, a person under a lot of stress can have a higher heart rate. Moreover, certain medications can also affect your resting heart rate, such as calcium channel blockers and beta-blockers. These medications lower heart rate and are prescribed by doctors to treat conditions such as abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, and chest pain.
In addition to measuring your heart rate, feeling your pulse can give you an idea of whether the rhythm is regular, irregular, or a mix of both. An irregular or mix of both indicates that you have some health issues that you need to check with your doctor.
How To Lower Your Heart Rate?
Your heart rate can suddenly spike in response to certain factors, including emotional stress or other things going on at that time in your environment. Addressing these causes is the best way to lower your heart rate in such situations. (Source)
Managing Sudden Changes In Your Heart Rate
- Deep or guided breathing techniques, such as box breathing. Here’s how to do box breathing:
(i) You can do box breathing anywhere, for example, even at your work desk or in a cafe. Sit with your back supported in a comfortable chair and your feet on the floor.
(ii) Close your eyes. While slowly counting to four, breathe in through your nose. Feel the air entering your lungs.
(ii) Hold your breath inside while counting slowly to four. Try not to clamp your nose or mouth shut. Simply avoid inhaling or exhaling for four seconds.
(iii) Slowly exhale while counting for 4 seconds.
(iv) Repeat steps (ii) and (iii) at least four times or until calm returns.
- Practice remaining calm and relaxing techniques.
- Going for a long walk, preferably away from an urban environment
- Taking a relaxing, warm shower or bath
- Performing yoga or relaxation and stretching exercises
- Practicing vagal maneuvers
Lowering Your Heart Rate For The Long Term
Making certain changes to your lifestyle habits can help lower your heart rate and decrease your overall risk for heart disease in the long term. This can also control the heart rate during stress or physical activity periods.
Get Some Exercise
Regular exercise is the most effective and easiest way to improve your heart’s efficiency and achieve a long-term lasting lower heart rate. For instance, a 2018 meta-analysis reported that regular exercise could consistently lower resting heart rate. However, whereas any form of exercise can be helpful, the experts recommend that yoga and endurance training may be the most beneficial. (Source)
When your body is dehydrated, less blood circulates through your body. That causes your heart to work harder, so beat faster to keep your blood pumping.
A 2017 research study reported that a 335-milliliter drink of water could decrease resting heart rate over thirty minutes. This decline continued for another thirty minutes. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day can help reduce a person’s heart rate. (Source)
Limiting Intake Of Stimulants
Stimulants can lead to dehydration, putting more workload on the heart. For instance, consuming high doses of caffeine can cause dehydration, which may increase heart rate. Avoid beverages that contain caffeine, such as caffeinated coffee, energy drinks, soda, and teas. Dietary supplements also generally have caffeine—always check product labels. (Source)
However, there is insufficient scientific evidence that coffee or tea consumption can increase resting heart rate through dehydration. (Source)
Limiting Alcohol Intake
Drinking alcohol can lead to dehydration. Though more research is still necessary on this, it remains possible that alcohol consumption could increase resting heart rate.
Alcohol is also a toxin, and the body has to work harder to process and remove it. This can also cause an increase in heart rate. (Source)
Getting Enough Sleep
A chronic lack of sleep causes stress on the whole body, including the heart – leading to increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure. A 2020 study reported when people deviate from their regular bedtimes; it increases their resting heart rates. (Source)
Generally, adults require at least seven hours of sleep every night.
Maintaining A Healthy Body Weight
Extra weight puts stress on the body and heart. It is possible that this could cause an increase in heart rate. For instance, excess weight makes exercise more challenging.
However, there is not enough scientific evidence to suggest that body weight is a poor predictor of heart rate. (Source)
Related: Learn here how to lose weight, especially extra fat
Reducing & Resolving Sources Of Acute Long-Term Stress
When you experience stress such as from work, financial burdens, etc., your body triggers a “fight or flight response, increasing your heart rate. If you feel stressed a lot of the time, your resting heart rate remains elevated most of the time. For instance, a 2018 study reported that work-related stress is a significant risk factor for coronary heart problems. (Source)
Resolving your stress sources can lower your heart rate. Stress control techniques include:
- Yoga or stretching exercises
- Deep breathing
- Listening to music
- Reading a book
- Going for a long walk
- Squeezing a stress ball
Related: Learn here how to reduce your stress?
Sometimes changing your environment can help reduce heart rate. For instance, one 2018 research found that spending time in less urbanized environments can lower the psychological and physical effects of stress. This could be as simple as strolling in the local park. (Source)
Change Your Diet
Your diet can contribute to a higher heart rate, especially salt (sodium) negatively affects the heart.
On average, an American consumes 4,000 milligrams of sodium a day. So particularly pay attention to food labels – significant amounts of sodium are contained in processed and frozen foods.
The upper limit of daily sodium intake for adults is 2,300 milligrams per day. However, if you have high blood pressure, the recommendation drops to 1,500 milligrams for a day.
Smoking impacts the health of your heart and lungs and increases your resting heart rate. The more you smoke, the more negatively it affects your heart. Giving up smoking can substantially improve your health, including lowering of heart resting rate.
Your heart rate varies naturally throughout the day. However, several different factors, including stress, lifestyle habits like smoking and high caffeine consumption, and medical conditions, can cause elevated heart rates.
However, many people are able to reduce their resting heart rate through lifestyle changes, such as managing stress, exercising regularly, adequate sleep, avoiding smoking & excess caffeine, and eating a healthy diet.
Caution: If your heart rate is persistently higher than average, talk to your doctor.
About Author: Renu Bakshi, AKA Fitness Buffhq, is ISSA Certified Elite Trainer. He passed Personal Fitness Trainer Course, Nutrition Health Coach course & Specialist Exercise Therapy course from ISSA, the USA, obtaining + 97% marks. He shares his experience and knowledge about nutrition and effective workouts to get you in the best shape of your life, no matter how old you may be. The author says: “For me, age is just a number!”