The heart rate is very important, telling how many times your heart beats per minute. This is the reason why your health care provider will check your heart rate during every visit. Not only is it important to keep a normal heart rate for health purposes, but an abnormal heart rate is usually a sign of an underlying heart condition. It’ll probably require proper medical treatment.
As living without a heart is impossible, keeping a good heart's health is necessary, making sure it does beat just as it should. This is why doctors like to record your heart rate often.
So, what is the ‘normal’ heart rate?
For an adult, the acceptable heart rate ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute. The lower the number of beats per minute, the better it is, which is why athletes will have very low heart rates toward 40 beats per minute. However, a low heartbeat is not always a good thing, since it could indicate a medical condition such as bradycardia.
The condition causes the heart rate to fall below the average heart rate. It also produces various signs and symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, light-headedness, chest pain, etc. Various medical conditions cause bradycardia such as high blood pressure, hypothyroidism, obstructive sleep apnea, hemochromatosis, myocarditis, heart diseases, electrolyte imbalance, certain medications, etc.
So, the lower the heart rate, the better as long as there are no negative symptoms accompanying the state and as long as it above 40 beats per minute. In cases when the heart beats more than 100 times per minute, tachycardia occurs.
Tachycardia produces various signs and symptoms as well. Like lightheadedness, rapid pulse rate, chest pain, heart palpitations a feeling like the heart is getting out of your chest, shortness of breath, vertigo, fainting, etc.
Various medical conditions cause tachycardia such as fever, smoking, anemia, physical exercise, stress, heart diseases, alcohol abuse, certain medications, hyperthyroidism, electrolyte imbalance, drinking too much caffeine, abusing with illegal drugs, etc.
How do you check your heart rate?
Given the importance of maintaining a normal heart rate, it is essential for everyone to be able to know their current heart rate. The simplest way is to check for a pulse either on the inside of the wrists, inside of the elbow, side of the neck or the top of the foot. When you place your fingers at either of these areas, you should feel a slight, consistent push which is caused by the pressure of the blood in the vessels.
This happens when the muscles of the ventricles contract, pushing blood through the arteries at high pressure. By measuring the number of contractions, you get to know your heart rate. If you don’t know where exactly to place your fingers, try and feel around the joints until you can feel a pulse. Then, you need to have a watch with you for timing – a stopwatch would be most accurate.
The most accurate measure would be to count the number of pulses within 60 seconds, but you don’t always get that time. A lesser count of pulses within 15 seconds would also be fairly accurate. You can even go lower, just as long as you remember to multiply the number of heart beats to account for the entire minute.
Also, remember to note your physical condition at the time you’re taking a measure of your heart rate. Various factors can affect your heart rate reading including the level of physical activity, emotional state, and even body posture. For example, stress and anxiety or strenuous physical activity may increase your heart rate at that particular moment.
Medications, too, can affect your heart rate, with some of them, like beta-blockers, decreasing your heart rate.
How abnormal is an abnormal heart rate?
As mentioned before, an abnormally low heart rate is one which leads to undesirable side effects. If you experience any of those symptoms, check your heart rate regularly over the day and keep a record before you can determine if it’s abnormal. If you get a consistently low heart rate even when performing physical activities, this would be an abnormal heart rate.
As for a high heart rate, readings above the normal often signify a heart problem, and it is important to consult a doctor.