Your Resting Heart Rate Can be An Indicator of Your Health Status



Your resting heart rate is one factor that can identify potential health problems and gauge your heart health.

A healthy heart does not necessarily beat at the same rate all the time: the rate speeds up or slows down to match the activities you do and the oxygenation you need to do them.  So what is considered a normal heart rate varies from person to person and according to their circumstances.  In principle, a resting heart rate that is too high or a maximum heart rate that is too low can be an indicator of cardiovascular risk or another medical condition.


Why It Is Key to Know Your Resting Heart Rate

When you are at rest, your heart pumps as little blood as possible to supply your body with the oxygen it needs.  Although the average resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute, factors that can affect your resting heart rate include stress, anxiety, hormonal disruption, certain medications, or level of physical activity.


What are your ideal resting heart rate and maximum heart rate?

A normal resting heart rate for adults is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. 

In general, a lower resting heart rate implies a more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness than would be ensured by a resting heart rate of less than 70 beats per minute. To give an example, a well-trained athlete may have a normal resting heart rate close to 40 beats per minute.

The maximum heart rate, on the other hand, is the rate at which the heart beats at maximum effort to meet the body's oxygen needs. The maximum heart rate plays a key role in determining aerobic capacity, i.e. the amount of oxygen you are able to consume.

Several large-scale observational studies have indicated that a high aerobic capacity is associated with a lower risk of myocardial infarction and death. And a small controlled trial showed that men and women with mild cognitive impairment who increased their aerobic capacity also improved their performance on tests of memory and reasoning.

Like resting heart rate, maximum heart rate also depends on multiple factors. As people age, the average maximum heart rate decreases.   A commonly used formula to determine your maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age in years. 

If you are a person used to exercise, you will already know that your workouts regularly range between 60 and 80% of your maximum capacity as maintaining higher levels for too long takes a toll on the heart muscle.  Below is a table that gives you an approximate indication of these healthy percentages.


Average Heart Rate by Age


Age in Years

Average maximum heart rate represented in beats per minute

Target heart rate in beats per minute



90 a 153



88 a 149



85 a 145



83 a 140



80 a 136



78  a 132



75 a 128


How to Measure Your Resting Heart Rate

To measure your heart rate, simply take your pulse. Place your index and third fingers on your neck, next to your windpipe. To take your pulse at the wrist, place two fingers between the bone and the tendon over the radial artery, which is on the thumb side of the wrist.

When you feel the pulse, count the number of beats in 15 seconds. Multiply this number by four to calculate your beats per minute.

The best time to take a resting heart rate is just after waking up in the morning as any change in posture, activity and even hydration level can affect the measurement.  Other factors that can influence the measurement are,

- Age

- Your level of physical fitness

- Whether or not you are a smoker

- Cardiovascular conditions, cholesterol levels or if you have sugar problems.

- Air temperature

- Emotional state (stress, anxiety, depression...)

- Height

- Hormones

- Possible medications you are taking How to measure your resting heart rate

It is best to measure your heart rate several times during the week to see whether or not any of the above factors are influencing your heart rate. 


Strategies to Reduce or Keep Your Resting Heart Rate Low

Physical Activity and Exercise

Remember that your heart is a muscle and by working out or engaging in demanding physical activity you are forcing it to get stronger.  Precisely the exercises that are best suited for this purpose are those that involve cardio-respiratory effort such as walking, running, swimming or cycling.  When you use speed intervals, i.e. you do 30-second bursts, one minute bursts, etc., and then recover for 1 or 2 minutes, for example, you allow the heart muscle to adapt and strengthen in a healthy and safe way.

Running, swimming and cycling are the most popular ways, but there are other possibilities such as jumping rope, hiking, rock climbing and dancing that can also provide beneficial effects to your heart (and extra excitement).

Until now, it was believed that weight training was mainly good for strengthening the muscles and skeleton. It was especially recommended for older people to keep their bones strong and prevent falls and injuries. However, recent studies show that weight training also helps reduce the risk of diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

A 2019 study, for example, found that weight training was associated with a decrease in cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke, and increased longevity.

According to that study, which included nearly 12,600 people and was followed for 5.4 to 10.5 years, doing resistance training for less than an hour a week was associated with an approximate 40-70% decrease in the risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality, independent of any aerobic exercise.


Consciously Reduce Stress and Anxiety in your Life

Stress and anxiety have become a common factor in modern life but this does not mean that it is the norm, let alone left untreated.   Anxiety is often accompanied by its companions stress and depression.

Anxiety disorders can alter the body's response to stress, the combination of hormonal and physiological reactions that helps all animals fight or flee from a real threat. People with anxiety disorders have inappropriate highs and lows that can lead to high blood pressure, heart rhythm disturbances or heart attack.  A malfunctioning stress response promotes inflammation, which damages the lining of the arteries and sets the stage for the build-up of coronary plaque.

Breathing exercises or air-holding exercises as well as cold showers in the context of the Wim Hof method can very successfully help to stabilise your heart rate and reduce stress and anxiety.

On the other hand, Yoga is an alternative that uses breathing, stretching exercises connecting mind and muscles involved in inducing you to find calm and relaxation in each posture.


Avoid Stimulating Products Such as Tobacco, Excessive Caffeine, Alcohol, Some Supplements, etc.

A 2019 study notes that dietary supplements are defined as vitamins, minerals or herbal products and are usually administered in capsule or tablet form. Non-smokers are more tempted to use dietary supplements than smokers.

Smoking is associated with a decrease in the level of circulating folic acid. Cigarette smoke itself is an abundant source of free radicals that promote oxidative stress, through direct delivery of radicals and their endogenous generation, as well as through activation of inflammatory cells. It has been estimated that in one puff of a cigarette, the gaseous phase of the smoke exposes the smoker to an increased production of free radicals.  This oxidative stress acts as a major risk factor for the development of chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis and carcinogenesis.



Whatever you consume affects your heart health.  A diet high in sugar, flour, fructose, linolenic and linoleic acids (found in omega-6 polyunsaturated vegetable oils) will impose stress on cardiac function.

On the other hand, the cardiovascular system would benefit from Omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish such as deep-sea salmon, sardines or krill oil.

Dietary fibre is fibre that dissolves in water and has a viscous, fermentable texture. Insoluble fibre is different from soluble fibre because it does not dissolve in water and remains intact as it travels through the digestive system. 

Foods rich in soluble fibre include various vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. For example, psyllium husks, flaxseeds, macadamia nuts, avocados, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cruciferous vegetables, asparagus, apples, apricots, pears and sweet potatoes, among others.

It is important to keep your body hydrated.  Fluid loss increases your heart rate, so be sure to consume enough water throughout the day.

Catechins refer to a bioactive compound found in tea leaves.   Recent scientific research indicates that the number of hydroxyl groups and the presence of characteristic structural groups have a major impact on the antioxidant activity of catechins. The best source of these compounds is unfermented green tea.

Catechins have the strong property of neutralising reactive oxygen and nitrogen species. The group of green tea catechin derivatives includes: epicatechin, epigallocatechin, epicatechin gallate and epigallocatechin gallate.

Studies have found that different types of catechins can improve levels of serum triglycerides, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and apolipoprotein B, thereby reducing the deposition of fat in the blood. This study demonstrates the important preventive effects of catechins on cardiovascular disease.


Respect Your Sleep Hours

Adults who sleep less than 7 hours a night are more likely to say they have had health problems, such as heart attack, asthma and depression. Some of these health problems increase the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Among these problems is high blood pressure.

During normal sleep, blood pressure drops. Sleep problems cause blood pressure to remain high for a longer period of time. High blood pressure is one of the main risks for heart disease and stroke.

To improve your sleep quality, try to adhere to the following habits:

  • Keep a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning, even on weekends.
  • Get enough natural light, especially early in the day. Try to take a walk in the morning or at lunchtime.
  • Get enough physical activity during the day. Try not to exercise a few hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid artificial light, especially a few hours before bedtime. Use a blue light filter on your computer or smartphone.
  • Do not eat or drink within a few hours of going to bed; avoid alcohol and foods high in fat or sugar in particular.
  • Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet.


Maintain a Healthy Body Weight

Excess body weight is associated with cardiovascular events (CVD) and premature death.

This study published in Nature journal points to the importance of healthy overweight and obese people reducing their BMI (body mass index) to prevent T2DM (type 2 diabetes mellitus) and HT (hypertension) and thus increase the likelihood of remaining disease-free and avoiding premature death. Simultaneously reducing the magnitude of all conventional risk factors is the key to successfully reducing the occurrence of CVD (cardiovascular vascular disease).

Reducing excess body weight as well as lowering your resting heart rate can draw on the same strategies mentioned above such as exercise, hydration, getting enough sleep, proper nutrition and stress management. The bottom line is that these strategies should become lifestyle habits.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published