There are many health myths out there, especially about your heart rate or pulse. And with research changing every day, it can get confusing!
However, your heart rate is one of the most important indicators of your health. It shows how hard your heart is working to keep you alive. So why not learn more about this vital measurement? Here are 6 heart rate myths and the fun facts behind them.
1. Women Have Faster Heart Rates Than Men
The myth that heart rate differs by gender is true. Compared to women, men have a lower resting heart rate and a higher peak heart rate. A man’s heart rate also changes more drastically during physical activity. When exercise stops, it takes less time to go back to normal.
The reason? Women have smaller hearts. So in order to get enough blood to the entire body, it has to work harder. Levels of sex hormones like testosterone may also play a role.1
2. Healthy Heart Rate Is 60 To 100 Beats Per Minute
This is an old standard that’s been around for a while. And according to a study in the BMJ, a resting heart rate higher than 76 beats is associated with heart disease.2 These findings suggest that the healthy range should be lower. Otherwise, individuals with resting heart rates of 76 or higher may think that they’re risk-free.
3. Palpitations Are Caused By Heart Attacks
Palpitations are abnormally fast heartbeats. It may feel like your heart is going to burst out of your chest! You may also experience fluttering and pounding feelings. Don’t panic just yet, though. This doesn’t automatically mean that you’re having a heart attack.
Palpitations may be caused by caffeine, alcohol, or strenuous exercise. Even emotions like stress and excitement can cause them. Some medications and conditions like anemia may also spark palpitations.
Do keep in mind that palpitations from a heart attack or failure are possible. This usually crops up with pain, tightness, dizziness, and trouble breathing. But it isn’t the only cause, so pay attention to all the symptoms.3
4. Normal Heart Rate Means Normal Blood Pressure
Your heart rate measures the number of times your heart beats in a minute, while your blood pressure measures the force of circulating blood in your vessels. They’re two completely separate measurements.
It’s certainly possible for them to change at the same time. For example, exercising will increase both. But it’s also possible for your heart to pump faster without your blood vessels changing much. You can have a healthy heart and weak blood vessels, and vice versa.4
5. Slow Heart Rate Is Caused By A Weak Heart
Not always. People who are physically active – including athletes – typically have lower resting heart rates. This is because their hearts are nice and strong! Less work is needed to deliver oxygen throughout the body. Your heart rate might also drop while during sleep.
In other cases, a slow heart rate may be a sign of a bigger issue. Problems involving the heart’s electrical impulses may be the reason. It can also be caused by heart disease or hypothyroidism.
It’s normal to have a low heart rate if you’re an active person. If not? Talk to your doctor, especially if you also experience dizziness, fainting, or weakness.5
6. Fetal Heart Rate Predicts A Baby’s Gender
You’ve probably heard that fetal heart rate can predict your baby’s sex. This myth states that if it’s faster – above 140 beats per minute – then it’s a girl. Lower heart rates mean that it’s a boy.
Considering women have faster heart rates than men, this myth seems to make sense. But is it valid? Not always. Your baby’s heart rate will change with age. Its current activity level will also make it fluctuate, so this myth isn’t always accurate.6
To improve your heart rate, stay active. It’s one of the best things you can do for your health. Everything from aerobic exercise to stretching can get your heart pumping in the best way.
|↑1||The Heart Responds Differently to Exercise in Men vs. Women. American College of Cardiology.|
|↑2||Hsia, Judith, Joseph C. Larson, Judith K. Ockene, Gloria E. Sarto, Matthew A. Allison, Susan L. Hendrix, Jennifer G. Robinson, Andrea Z. LaCroix, and JoAnn E. Manson. “Resting heart rate as a low tech predictor of coronary events in women: prospective cohort study.” Bmj 338 (2009): b219.|
|↑3||Heart Palpitations. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.|
|↑4||Blood Pressure vs. Heart Rate (Pulse). American Heart Association.|
|↑5||Bradycardia | Slow Heart Rate. American Heart Association.|
|↑6||Pregnancy Tales. KidsHealth.|