The heart beats all day and night. It works hard to keep you alive! But this is easy to forget, especially if you don’t know how to check your heart rate.
Why bother? Well, your heart rate can give you a peek into what’s going on inside your body. This isn’t something that only your doctor should know, though. Learning how to measure your heart rate is one of the best things you can do. Here’s how.
What’s A Resting Heart Rate?
For starters, your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats in a minute. Simply put, it’s your pulse. Your resting heart rate is your heart rate when you’re not active. This represents the lowest amount of blood that your body needs.1
Resting heart rate can be affected by many things. Aging speeds it up, while exercise slows it down. Genes, medication, stress, and illness can all play a role.2
Traditionally, the normal range is 60 to 100 beats per minute. But some experts think this should be lower since anything 76 or higher is linked to heart disease.
Why Is It Important?
Your heart rate is an independent predictor of heart-related risks like heart attacks.3 Essentially, this measurement shows you how well your heart is working. You’ll know that something is up if it’s too high or low. From there, you can take the next steps necessary.
Learning how to check your heart rate isn’t just for athletes, either. It’s a vital measurement that can help you achieve optimal health.
How To Check Your Heart Rate
Every time you go to the doctor, they’ll check your heart rate. You can also buy a heart rate monitor to use at home. These days, they often look like a normal watch – all thanks to technology.
But you don’t need doctors and fancy gadgets to measure your resting heart rate. You can do it at home using this simple method.
Since you’re learning to check your resting heart rate, you need to be, well, resting! Make sure you’re calm and relaxed. If you were just moving around or exercising, wait until your heart rate gets back to normal. Five minutes should do the trick.4
Body position doesn’t make a difference. You can stand, sit, or lay down. Just make sure you hold it for a bit before counting.5
For the most accurate measurement, check your heart rate when you wake up. Do this before you even roll out of bed.6
2. Find Your Pulse
This is easy if you know where to look. The wrists, inside of the elbow, side of the neck, and top of the foot are all good spots. Simply, place your index and middle finger on the area to locate your pulse.
Make sure your body is relaxed while doing this. You shouldn’t be straining or stretching.
Keep a clock nearby or grab a stopwatch. Count the number of beats you feel in 60 seconds or one minute. Alternatively, you can also count for 30 seconds and multiply by two. However, the first number is typically more accurate.
If your heart rate is high, there are things you can do to lower it. Exercise is the best way to improve your resting heart rate. This will make your heart stronger, so it won’t have to work hard to beat steadily. Stress management is another stellar way. It’ll relax your body and help reduce your heart rate. Try yoga, meditation, or finding a fun hobby.
If you smoke cigarettes, work on quitting. Smoking stresses out the heart, making it harder to pump blood. No wonder smokers have higher resting heart rates compared to non-smokers.7
Losing weight will also reduce your heart rate. After all, when you have a lot of body fat, your heart will have to work harder to supply blood. This will also raise your blood pressure and increase your risk for other chronic diseases.8
Worried about your heart rate? Talk to your doctor. She’ll determine if there’s anything to be concerned about.
|↑1||All About Heart Rate (Pulse). American Heart Association.|
|↑2, ↑6||Increase in resting heart rate is a signal worth watching. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑3||Fox, Kim, Jeffrey S. Borer, A. John Camm, Nicolas Danchin, Roberto Ferrari, Jose L. Lopez Sendon, Philippe Gabriel Steg et al. “Resting heart rate in cardiovascular disease.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology 50, no. 9 (2007): 823-830.|
|↑4||How do I check my pulse? NHS Choices.|
|↑5||All About Heart Rate (Pulse). American Heart Association.|
|↑7||Papathanasiou, George, Dimitris Georgakopoulos, Effie Papageorgiou, Efthimia Zerva, L. A. M. P. R. O. S. Michalis, Vasiliki Kalfakakou, and Angelos Evangelou. “Effects of smoking on heart rate at rest and during exercise, and on heart rate recovery, in young adults.” Hellenic J Cardiol 54, no. 3 (2013): 168-177.|
|↑8||Heart & Vascular. Beaumont Health.|