What Your Resting Heart Rate Can Reveal About Your Health

You are probably aware that your heart rate fluctuates throughout the day. When you just finished exercising, your heart rate may be through the roof; when you are sleeping, your heart rate may be relatively low. This is common knowledge, but did you know that your heart rate when you are resting (for example, using the computer or watching television) can be a reliable indicator of your health and well-being?

Checking your heart rate can be as simple as pressing a couple of fingers against your neck or wrist for 15 seconds, recording the number of beats, and then multiplying the final figure by four. Repeat the process a few times to ensure the accuracy of your reading. Preferably, do not measure your resting heart rate within an hour of exercise, stress, or caffeine consumption. The final number you should hope to see is between 60 to 100 beats per minute (per Harvard Health Publishing).

A high resting heart rate is associated with potential health problems

Although a heart rate of up to 100 beats per minute is ostensibly normal, research suggests that a heart rate above 80 may be associated with heart disease, lower physical activity, high blood pressure and body weight, and early mortality. One 2013 study in the journal Heart reported that risk of mortality is doubled among healthy men who have a resting heart rate above 80, and tripled among men with a resting heart rate above 90.

On the other end of the spectrum, lower resting heart rates are often a sign of fitness and optimal heart function. It is not uncommon for professional athletes to have a typical resting heart rate of around 40 beats per minute. However, if a person is not highly athletic, heart rates below 60 beats per minute can be a signal of potential health problems, especially if accompanied by other symptoms such as dizziness or fainting. Such symptoms warrant a visit to the doctor (via Mayo Clinic).

Dr. Jason Wasfy told Harvard Health Publishing that it is a good idea to check and record your resting heart rate several times a week, and that a visit to the doctor may be necessary if your heart rate is persistently high. In the meantime, you can lower your heart rate by consuming less cholesterol and performing an hour of high-intensity aerobic exercise each week. According to the Cleveland Clinic, more techniques to maintain a healthy heart rate include drinking water, getting more sleep, practicing mindfulness, and cutting back on caffeine and nicotine.