By monitoring your resting heart rate (RHR - the number of times your heart beats in 1 minute), you can get a quick snapshot of your overall health. In many cases a lower resting heart rate can be indicative of a higher degree of physical fitness. While a higher resting heart rate could be a sign of an increased risk of cardiac problems or other health related issues. Research has found that a resting heart rate near the top of the 60 to 100 range can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease and even early death.
When to take your RHR?
The American Heart Association recommends checking your resting heart rate first thing in the morning (before you get out of bed). Avoid taking it within two hours after ceasing physical activity or experiencing a stressful situation. And wait at least one hour after consuming caffeine.
How to take your RHR.
Find your pulse at the radial artery distally to the wrist joint on the thumb side. Use your pointer finger and middle finger to find your pulse (avoid utilizing your thumb). Once you find your pulse begin counting your beats per min (bpm). If you take a 15 second count times that by 4, if you take a 30 second count times that by 2 to get your bpm/heart rate (HR). The carotid artery should be avoided during exercise because pressing too hard could inhibit blood flow to the brain. Fitness and activity tracking watches can also help you monitor your heart rate. Popular brands include Garmin, FitBit, Polar USA, and Suunto.
What factors may influences RHR?
Stress, anxiety, and medications can impact your “true” resting heart rate. Try to avoid taking it during these situations and consult with your primary care doctor to learn if a medication is causing an elevated heart rate (HR).
How to lower your HR.
Getting adequate sleep, participating in daily physical activity, and keeping cholesterol levels in check are three principal components to focus on to lower your heart rate. A reliable way to lower your resting heart rate is to exercise. “Even small amounts of exercise can make a change,” says Dr. Wasfy- Harvard Medical School. However, the intensity of the exercise is key! One study that involved 55-year-old adults found that just one hour per week of high-intensity aerobic training (about 66% of maximum effort), lowered RHR more efficiently than a low-intensity effort (33% of max effort). Talk with your PT at Specialized Physical Therapy about different types of cardiovascular exercise you can participate in to meet your physical activity needs.
In the upcoming blogs we will be sharing information on Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and Heart Rate responses to exercise for weight loss and cardiovascular endurance.
A special thank you to our professional triathelete, Morgan Chaffin, for the information in this blog.