At iHeart, we receive a lot of questions about resting heart rates and what is considered healthy. This blog post will address the causes of variance in resting heart rates with reference to iHeart Internal Age testing.
Heart rate is measured in beats per minute (bpm), with lower heart rates typically indicating a higher functioning heart and greater levels of fitness. This is not always the case but is commonly understood as the general rule. We recommend that users rest for two minutes before taking an iHeart reading. This is to give the heart long enough to settle to its normal resting rate and for blood pressure to drop to a resting level. This process can take longer than two minutes for some people (stay tuned for an article discussing heart rate recovery times in the coming weeks) and is affected by a number of factors as described in this list from the American Heart Association:
- Air temperature: When temperatures (and the humidity) soar, the heart pumps a little more blood, so your pulse rate may increase, but usually no more than five to 10 beats a minute.
- Body position: Resting, sitting or standing, your pulse is usually the same. Sometimes as you stand for the first 15 to 20 seconds, your pulse may go up a little bit, but after a couple of minutes it should settle down.
- Emotions: If you’re stressed, anxious or “extraordinarily happy or sad” your emotions can raise your pulse.
- Body size: Body size usually doesn’t change pulse. If you’re very obese, you might see a higher resting pulse than normal, but usually not more than 100.
- Medication use: Meds that block your adrenaline (beta blockers) tend to slow your pulse, while too much thyroid medication or too high of a dosage will raise it.
What Is A Normal Resting Heart Rate?
Most people have at least some idea of their average resting heart rate thanks to developments in consumer technology. Our phones and personal devices can monitor heart rate but do not give us much in the way of comparison to the norm so the question remains: What Is A Normal Resting Heart Rate?
Heart rate is entirely personal and being within the ‘normal’ range does not exempt a person from risk of cardiovascular disease. While it may provide some peace of mind (or not, depending on your position!), this is not prescriptive and healthy lifestyles should be a focus for all of us as we navigate the challenges of daily life.
The Effects Of Stress On The Heart
One of the largest causes of increased heart rate is stress. The body reacts to stressful situations by releasing a hormone called adrenaline, which also temporarily increases blood pressure. Whilst adrenaline performs a vital function and is the driving force behind the crucial fight-or-flight response, it is our responsibility to mindfully manage stress for the good of our health and our happiness. People who lead stressful lifestyles are adding to the heart’s workload and do so to the detriment of their lifespan.
By practicing healthy lifestyles over prolonged periods we can affect our resting heart rate positively. Exercise, meditation/stress management and healthy eating are just some of the ways that we can help to lower resting heart rate and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. As fitness levels increase and stress decreases, the heart functions more efficiently and at a lower rate.
The Heart Has A Finite Number Of Beats Per Lifetime
There is ample research to suggest that we receive a finite number of heartbeats per lifetime, such as this Danish study from 2013. While it’s not quite as straightforward as that sounds, the takeaway point from all research on the topic is that lower heart rates typically lead to longer lifespans. Exercising may cause a temporary increase in heart rate and ‘use up’ some of those valuable beats, but the resulting increased fitness and lower resting pulse rate will more than make up for it in the long run.
iHeart Internal Age testing can instantly monitor the effects of lifestyle choices. As iHeart measures changes in heart rate, blood oxygen, Aortic Pulse Wave Velocity, and (discreetly) blood pressure, Internal Age scores will increase or decrease in response to recent activities. If scores are significantly lower after an hour-long session of meditation then this can be taken as an indicator that persistence at meditation will have a positive and lasting effect on your resting heart rate and overall health.