If you are like me, you generally think that you are pretty healthy. However, your heart rate provides a benchmark for your overall health that you might not have thought about. The way your heart runs gives an indication of everything else that is going on in other systems throughout your body. The heart pulse rate is one of the vital signs that indicate how your body is functioning. Your pulse measures the number of times per minute your heart contracts, or beats. When your pulse rate is high, the heart is working hard and usually means you’re exercising or having a high emotional response. When you’re relaxed, the resting heart rate should be lower. If it’s not – taking steps to lower your heart rate can actually extend your life.
Risks of a High Heart Rate
Our heart is responsible for pumping blood through our entire bodies. It works hard, but it’s not meant to be in overdrive all day long. A high heart rate can cause significant health issues. For most of us, even the most strenuous exercise only gets us up to 70-80 percent of our highest heart rate. This is on purpose. We don’t want to overwork this most vital organ. It’s important to lower your heart rate to increase your overall health. If you consistently experience a high heart rate, this can be a contributing factor in other health risks and condition including:
- Low energy
- Chest pains
- Difficulty breathing
- Reduced blood circulation
- Blood clots
- Heart failure
- Heart attack
Causes for a High Heart Rate
Our heart is designed to keep us safe, which is why when you need it to work harder – it will. You don’t have to ask it to beat faster when you start running or send in a request for more beats when you’re stressed out – it does this automatically. Other reasons for a temporary spike in heart rates may be:
- Increased emotional responses cause the stress response to kick in.
- High temperature or high humidity outside means the body is working to cool down.
- Standing up too quickly or a rapid change in body position.
- Fright or terror sparks an adrenaline response.
- Hormone changes can affect the heart rate.
- Sleep deprivation and fatigue cause the body to work harder.
- Obesity can cause your heart to work overtime, even while resting.
If you find your heart rate is consistently higher than others, there may be a few reasons for this. First, the heart rate typically increases with age. As those muscles grow weaker, they have to work harder. So if you’re the oldest person in the room, your heart rate is likely higher. Also, if you have underlying conditions such as a poor diet, smoking habits, excessive alcohol use, high blood pressure, or recreational drug use, these are all reasons why your heart is working overtime and it’s time to lower your heart rate.
An increased heart rate should be temporary. Your body has a natural pacemaker, called the sinus node, that keeps your heart rate in check. When this system is not working properly, you may experience a fast, irregular or abnormal heart rate which could be potentially serious. These are clear indicators to lower your heart rate.
What is the Ideal Heart Rate?
Your body is not designed to run at 100% capacity all the time. Is yours running too much? Here’s a quick way to tell if you need to lower your heart rate: First, find your pulse, and find a clock.
Now relax your mind and your body and start to time your pulse. You should have about one beat per second – maybe a little bit more. Generally, a target of 60-100 beats per minute is normal. A low resting heart rate allows the heart to maintain a healthy rhythm and respond to routine stressors and activities when necessary. Having a healthy, low resting heart rate is a significant contribution to overall health.
How High is Too High?
Your highest possible heart rate is generally found by subtracting your age from 220. For example, if you’re 30 years old – your highest possible heart rate would be 190 beats per minute. If you have this high of a heart rate you’re likely either about to go skydiving, in an extreme workout or being chased by a lion.
The increased use of Fitbits and smartwatches have provided the most extensive, longitudinal databases on heart rates ever recorded. Fitbit data shows male and female users’ resting heart rate actually increased with age from 20s to the 40s, then decreased after that. The same Fitbit data analysis also shows women have a higher average resting heart rate than men by about 3 beats per minute.
Although we know a high heart rate can be problematic, some individuals may also experience a lower than normal heart rate. While this doesn’t necessarily signal a medical problem, it is important to be aware of it. Sometimes a lower heart rate is due to a beta-blocker. Lower rates are common for athletes or those who get a lot of physical activity. Some individuals also experience a lower overall health rhythm which is called bradycardias and can be caused by several factors including atrioventricular (AV) heart block, bundle branch block, and tachy-brady syndrome.
How to Check Your Heart Rate
Checking your heart rate can be done anytime, anywhere and doesn’t cost a dime. The first step is to find your pulse. You can try the wrist, inside of the elbow, side of your neck, or top of your foot. These are usually the easiest places to feel the pulse. To get the most accurate reading, put your finger over your pulse and count the number of beats in 60 seconds. If you’re under 100, you’re probably good to go. If you’re higher than that, it’s time to lower your heart rate.
How to Lower Your Heart Rate Quickly
If you experience a sudden spike in your heart rate, try these seven tips to lower your heart rate quickly:
- Get comfortable. This may include getting into a climate-controlled environment.
- Slow your breathing. This is especially important if you’re upset or emotional. Practice deep or guided breathing techniques
- Move slowly, and avoid making any sudden movements.
- Have a warm, relaxing shower or bath – just make sure it’s not too hot, as that can increase your heart rate.
- Try going for a slow and relaxing walk in a peaceful atmosphere.
- Practices like mindfulness, yoga, and other forms of exercise to lower your stress and anxiety can be very effective to lower your heart rate.
- HeartMath App – when all else fails and you need some guidance, check out my favorite calming app, HeartMath.
What is HeartMath?
The HeartMath App is designed to connect your heart and mind together in a way that hasn’t been done before. It was founded in 1991 and is now developed into a system of scientifically proven tools to connect with yourself and regulate your emotions to reduce stress and increase resilience.
There are several products from HeartMath, the most popular include:
- Inner Balance for Mobile: This is a sensor that connects to an app on your phone. This sensor detects your emotional well-being and provides real-time heart rate information, guided meditations, coaching tips, and can help you feel and perform better throughout the day.
- EmWave2: This handheld device detects your heart rhythm and reflects your emotional state. Using HeartMath techniques, the device can guide you to a higher state of wellbeing to increase calm, improve focus, and reduce anxiety. Even better, the device will confirm when you get there.
These two products both work with an ear sensor that measures the speed of blood flow in the ear, and the inter-beat interval are calculated in milliseconds. The science behind this product is based on decades of research and plenty of raving reviews:
Some customers use the EmWave2 for handling PTSD symptoms, while others use it for high-stress work positions. All of the reviews deliver stunning performance and high recommendations. Some users state there is a bit of a learning curve, but it’s intuitive and has a user-friendly interface.
There isn’t a single negative review on the website, which makes it very easy for me to recommend Heartmath to anyone who is looking to make a real difference to lower your heart rate. Get further details and buy now on heartmath.com.
How to Lower Your Resting Heart Rate Naturally and Permanently
To make long-term results and lower your heart rate, lifestyle changes are often the best method. These tips also improve your ability to maintain a healthy heart later in life and increase your overall health in the long run.
- Stay out of the heat: When your body has to work harder to regulate your body temperature, this causes an increase in your heart rate. Work to stay at a comfortable temperature throughout the year to lower your heart rate.
- Exercise frequently: This is perhaps the easiest and most effective way to lower your heart rate overall and even if you aren’t into it, yoga is one of the best overall. The best part is you can literally do it anywhere. This is one of my favorite yoga resources, Yoga Burn.
- Stay hydrated: When you are dehydrated, your heart has to work harder to make sure the blood is flowing as it should. Stay hydrated to lower your heart rate.
- Limit caffeine and nicotine: Any type of stimulants will put extra strain on your heart. These also cause dehydration, which increases the heart’s workload.
- Limit alcohol intake: Alcohol will dehydrate the body, and because it’s a toxin, the body works hard to process and remove it, which will increase heart rate.
- Quit smoking: We all know smoking isn’t good for us, here is one more reason why. It’s making your heart work twice as hard. Nicotine causes your veins and arteries to constrict, making your heart put in that extra work to pump blood.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet: Your heart needs the nutrients it gets from foods just as much as your other vital organs do. Lean proteins, fish, vegetables, nuts, and legumes are great to lower your heart rate. There are also supplements that may be beneficial.
- Get enough sleep: Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night, less than this puts stress on the whole body.
- Maintain a healthy body weight: Any extra weight on your body makes your heart works harder to keep the body moving. Losing weight will naturally lower your heart rate.
- Reduce or resolve sources of substantial long-term stress: While this may be easier said than done, chronic stress causes physiological consequences including increase heart rates that have long-term effects on your overall health.
- Seek counseling or psychological services: If you have experienced recent personal trauma or emotional experiences, professional therapy can help to work through those and make sure your body and brain chemistry remain in balance.
- Get outdoors: Just being outside for a short walk in a calm environment can lower stress levels and help you to calm down.
- Practice relaxation techniques: Anything that helps you lower stress can be helpful, but especially mental exercises like meditation have been proven especially effective.
- I have also found a website that has an app that offers relaxation techniques and is able to activate your natural relaxation response system in just 7 minutes of mindfulness.
- HeartMath App – When used consistently, this technology and the techniques provided through the mobile sensor or handheld device can help you to connect to yourself better and lower your heart rate naturally. Check it out here.
How Long Does it Take to Lower Your Resting Heart Rate?
If a higher heart rate is a sign you’re unhealthy, does lowering it automatically makes you healthy? Not necessarily. We can’t definitely tell you how long it will take to change your overall health. After all, it depends a lot on where you start and how serious you’re working on it. However, these steps will definitely put you on the right track. Measuring your resting heart rate, taking steps to lower your heart rate, and staying on top of your progress is a safe, non-intrusive way to track your overall health.
The Heart Truth
One in every four deaths in the U.S. is due to heart disease, making it the leading cause of death in the United States. Too many of us aren’t paying attention to this vital organ when it’s screaming out for help with every beat. Of course, your doctor is a vital resource that should be involved, but it’s up to you to be in charge of your own health and take steps to lower your heart rate. Monitoring and maintaining a normal heart rate is one of the easiest ways to do exactly that.