Your resting heart rate (RHR) is a number you may not ever think about, or at least no very often. However, it’s one of the most important numbers you should know in relation to your health. Not only can your resting heart rate be used to track your fitness level and target your workouts, but it can also alert you to an assortment of potential health risks. Therefore, getting to know your RHR—and what’s normal for you—it can help be more informed about your health.
You RHR can tell you that:
You’re Not Active Enough - A normal resting heart rate for an average adult is 60 to 100 beats per minute (bpm) or 40 to 60 bpm for athletes and people who exercise vigorously on a regular basis. If you’re sedentary most of the day, your RHR is likely to approach or exceeds the top end of this range. This may be because your heart is less efficient. Yet, by regularly engaging in moderate to vigorous aerobic activities (brisk walking, biking, swimming), you will help your heart become more efficient at pumping blood, plus you might shed a few precious kilos, all of which will lower your RHR over time. Even modest decrease in resting heart rate can dramatically reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and help you live longer.
You’re Overtraining - Though pushing your body can lead to great gains, it can also be harmful. If you notice an increase in your resting heart rate when you’re going heavy on the training and light on the rest, your body may be telling you that you need to cut back. By resting adequately, your body can repair and adapt and you are likely to bounce back stronger than ever.
You’re Too Stressed - Continued mental and emotional stress can also cause your RHR to creep up over time. If “fight-or-flight” mode becomes your norm, the associated increase in your resting heart rate can produce a higher risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other conditions. Try adding relaxation into your day—read, meditate, go for a walk with two or four legged friends or any other emotionally recharging activities. Regular relaxation activities may help you combat your stress and which could lead to a lower resting heart rate. I have excellent track record I significantly reducing stress, anxiety and high blood pressure through Heartmath methodology.
You don’t sleep enough - Always exhausted? Chronic sleep deprivation—which can lead to fatigue, a lower metabolism, and grazing—can also raise your RHR. Aim for at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Sleep deprivation if often caused by sleep apnoea, so if you wake up tired, this is something you may want to have tested.
You’re drinking enough - During a hot summer day, especially in places such as the French Riviera, if you notice a temporary increase in your resting heart rate, your body might simply be trying to cool down. However, it could also mean you’re dehydrated—especially if you’re thirstier than usual, your mouth feels dry, and your urine is yellower than normal. To help lower your resting heart rate, drink more water.
You’re Developing a Medical Condition - If you experience shortness of breath, unusual fatigue, dizziness, excessive thirst/urination and your RHR has increased, you might be at risk for cardiovascular disease, hyperthyroidism, or type-2 diabetes. However, a low resting heart rate isn’t always ideal either. When combined with symptoms (such as those mentioned), it could indicate an underlying issue with the electrical system of your heart. If have concerns, discuss these changes with your healthcare professional.
Important to Keep in Mind
If you notice a change in your HR but none of the scenarios above seem plausible, there are two other factors that may be in play: age and medication.
Resting Heart Rate Increases With Age - Most of the time your RHR can be modified. Regrettably, as you get older, your RHR tends to increase. To reduce the influence that aging can have on your cardiovascular system, you can help maximize your results by exercising within your target HR zone to help lower your resting heart rate.
Medication Affects Resting Heart Rate - Changes in your resting heart rate can also result from over-the-counter or prescription medications. Medications for asthma, depression, obesity, and attention deficit disorder tend to increase your RHR. However, medications prescribed for hypertension and heart conditions (beta blockers, calcium channel blockers) usually decrease your RHR.
This article is not intended to substitute informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your healthcare professional before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.