Most people have seen images of a heart rate monitor screen: a line with periodic sharp spikes up and down. Perhaps you can even clearly hear in your mind the beeping that occurs as these spikes appear. While these images may be ingrained in us from various medical movies and TV shows, knowing your own heart rate on a day-to-day basis and what’s considered healthy for you, is a different matter.
Not only does a normal heart rate vary between people, but it also changes depending on what activity you’re doing and of course, whether or not you have any lurking medical conditions. By being aware of your resting heart rate and using a target health rate calculator, you’ll be better able to keep your heart healthy or see whether or not you may need to see a doctor.
About Your Heart Rate
Your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute. As such, when you measure your heart rate, the measurement is written as BPM.
Many factors can affect how fast or slow your heartbeat is, from your age to your medications to your emotions. Even hotter air temperature can increase your heart rate! Your heart rate is also lower when you’re resting versus when you’re exercising as your body requires more oxygen in your blood during this time. What the healthy heart rate range is for you depends on some of these factors as well.
How to Measure Your Heart Rate
To check your own heart rate you can measure your pulse rate, which is how many times your arteries contract and expand as your heart pumps. Your pulse rate is equivalent to your heart rate so you can compare it to an estimate of the healthy heart rate to gauge how far off it you are.
Gently press the tip of your index, second, or third finger to your wrist or the side of your neck below your chin where you should be able to feel your blood pulsing. It may be easier to use two fingers at a time, but remember not to use your thumb as it has its own pulse that could confuse things. Then, count the number of pulses your heart beats you feel in a 60-second period.
What is the Average Heart Rate?
For adults, meaning those 18 years old and over, the average resting heart rate ranges between 60 and 100 beats per minute. For children, a normal resting pulse is 70 to 100 beats per minute. These are also the generic ranges of healthy heart rates.
That being said, there are always exceptions to this average heart rate range. For example, someone who is extremely active may have a normal resting heart rate of just 40 beats per minute. This is because they’ve strengthened their heart muscle enough that it’s able to pump more blood each time their heart beats.
To figure out what your normal resting heart should be (a healthy heart rate), you should consult your doctor since they’ll be able to factor in the rest of your health history. They’ll also be able to tell you if your heart rate is too low or too high and whether additional testing is needed.
How to Calculate Your Target Heart Rate
Along with monitoring your resting heart rate, it can help to know your target heart rate, too. This is especially true if you’re working on your fitness or trying to lose weight.
Keeping this number in mind, you can see if you’re getting the most out of your work out. You may find that you need to push a little bit more if your pulse is lower than your target heart rate. Or, if you see that you’re pushing too much, then perhaps you need to reel it back if your pulse is higher than your target heart rate.
To find your target heart rate, you first need to know what your maximum heart rate is, which is determined by your age. A target heart rate calculator can make all of these calculations for you quickly and give you your target BPM zone. With these numbers, you can ensure that you’re increasing your heart rate enough to provide sufficient oxygen and energy to your body, but not so much that your heart is under strain.
What Does a Slow/Fast Heart Rate Mean?
It’s possible to have a heart rate that’s too slow or too fast compared to a healthy heart rate. If your heart rate is less than 60 beats per minute, it’s considered slow and labeled as bradycardia. With bradycardia, you may feel symptoms like shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, or fainting because your organs aren’t receiving as much blood and oxygen.
A heart rate faster than 100 beats per minute is considered a rapid heartbeat and categorized as a condition called tachycardia. People with tachycardia may feel chest pain or experience palpitations, dizziness, or fainting because their heart is working overtime.
If you are concerned that you have either of these conditions, visit your doctor so they can figure out what might be causing your slow, fast, or irregular heart rate and let you know about possible next steps if any need to be taken.
How to Protect Your Heart
You don’t necessarily need to drastically change your lifestyle in order to have a healthier heart. One of the easiest things you can do is add more physical activity to your routine. You can first make small adjustments like taking the stairs instead of using the elevator or walking during your lunch break rather than sitting at your desk.
Along with bumping up the amount of movement in your day, try to eat more fruits and vegetables, which are rich in nutritious vitamins and minerals. You should also aim to get eight hours of sleep. If you need any help managing your heart health, speak with your doctor and they’ll be able to give you some recommendations.
Signs of Heart Disease
When you take steps to protect your heart, you’re reducing your chances of developing heart disease or cardiovascular disease. In general, keep an eye out for the common signs of heart disease so you can get checked out by a doctor and get any necessary treatment as soon as possible. A significant deviation in your heart rate compared to your usual healthy heart rate is one such sign.
Common heart disease symptoms include:
- Slow or rapid heartbeat
- Fluttering heartbeats
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling in legs, feet, or ankles
You should also be aware of heart murmurs, which are whooshing-type sounds heart between heartbeats that’s caused by blood in or near your heart. While many heart murmurs aren’t a serious cause for concern, they could signal a congenital defect, infection, or other medical condition.
Checking your resting heart rate is an important part of monitoring your heart health, and knowing your target heart rate can help you optimize your exercise. Because so many factors affect heart rate, what’s considered healthy may vary from one person to another. A doctor can help you figure out what your resting heart rate should be and a target heart rate calculator can calculate what number you should be aiming for when you work out.
Cindy is a freelance writer and editor with previous experience in marketing as well as book publishing. Along with her content writing for a diverse portfolio of clients, Cindy’s work has been featured in Time Out, CultureMap, Livability, and more.