Resting heart rate, measured in beats per minute, is your heart rate while at rest. It serves as an indicator of fitness. Resting heart rate varies by age. In adults, 60–100 beats per minute (bpm) is considered normal. In general, and with some exceptions, a lower resting heart rate indicates a higher degree of fitness.
This article reviews how to measure resting heart rate and what it means for you.
Measuring Resting Heart Rate
Though there are a number of products, like smartwatches and heart rate monitors, that can measure resting heart rate, all you need is a watch with a second hand.
To measure your heart rate, place a finger over the radial artery or carotid artery. The radial artery is found at the base of the wrist on the side of the thumb. The carotid artery is found on the neck, to the side of the windpipe, just under the angle of the jaw.
Once you have located the artery, place your index and middle fingers over it and count the number of pulsations in one minute. A quicker method is to count the number of beats over 15 seconds and multiply this by 4 to determine beats per minute.
Keys to Getting an Accurate Result
Resting heart rate is determined with a pulse measurement when you are relaxed and at rest. Do not take resting heart rate after:
- Active exercise
- Walking around the house
- Smoking a cigarette
- When feeling stressed
These can all increase heart rate and give inaccurate results for a true resting heart rate.
Normal Resting Heart Rate by Age
From birth to adulthood, resting heart rate varies. In babies and children, normal resting heart rate is higher, but normal ranges decrease with age until adulthood.
One classification for pediatric heart rate ranges based on a wide-scale study is listed below.
|Pediatric Heart Rate Ranges (10th–90th percentile)|
|Age||Normal Resting Heart Rate Range (bpm)|
For people ages 18 years and older, a normal resting heart rate is 60–100 beats per minute.
What Does It Mean?
Lower Than Normal
A lower than normal resting heart rate is called bradycardia, though it is not necessarily a bad thing. For example, people with high physical fitness, such as long-distance runners, can have a heart rate as low as the 40s when at rest without any problem.
However, for most people, a low heart rate could indicate a problem, especially if any symptoms are present, such as:
- Light-headedness or fainting
- Weakness or fatigue
- Shortness of breath
Some common causes of low heart rates include the following:
A resting heart rate between 60 and 100 bpm is considered normal, but the lower end of this range is better. One study conducted over approximately 20 years demonstrated that for every 10 bpm increase in heart rate, risk of death increased by up to 20%.
Higher Than Normal
A heart rate higher than 100 bpm is called tachycardia. Aside from recent exercise, many things can increase resting heart rate, including:
Serious Conditions Causing Tachycardia
Some life-threatening conditions can also cause a high resting heart rate, including:
If you have concerning symptoms with high heart rate, such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, or fainting, seek medical attention right away.
How to Improve Your Resting Heart Rate
You can lower your resting heart rate by improving your physical fitness and making some lifestyle changes.
Regular cardio exercise, like running, swimming, or biking, trains the heart to be more efficient over time. With each heartbeat, the "athletic heart" maintains its output of blood to the body at a lower heart rate.
In addition to exercise, other actions that may improve your resting heart rate include:
Resting heart rate is an indicator of fitness, with lower values associated with improved health outcomes. For most adults, the normal resting heart rate is 60–100 bpm. It can be lower in athletes or people who are regularly physically active.
People can take steps to improve their resting heart rate by incorporating regular exercise, quitting smoking, reducing alcohol and caffeine intake, and managing stress.
A Word From Verywell
Tracking your resting heart rate can be helpful as you age and become more likely to experience illness. It can be useful to healthcare providers treating a variety of conditions. If your resting heart rate is outside the normal range, consider some lifestyle changes and habits to improve your heart health and reach out to a healthcare provider if you are concerned.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is considered a dangerous heart rate?
A dangerous heart rate is one in which the heart is pumping so slowly or so quickly (and thus inefficiently) that it is not providing appropriate blood flow to the body. A low or high heart rate with symptoms of light-headedness, dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath, or loss of consciousness may be considered dangerous.
The actual heart rate value at which this happens varies by person. Generally, resting heart rates with such symptoms that are considered dangerous are as low as 40 bpm or less or as high as 130 bpm or higher.
What are the signs of a heart attack?
The most common symptoms of a heart attack are chest discomfort, which may radiate to the neck, and shortness of breath. Other symptoms may include nausea, fatigue, and light-headedness. Heart rate can vary during a heart attack. Some heart attacks can cause heart block and a very low heart rate, while others can cause dangerous arrhythmias like ventricular tachycardia and very high heart rate.
What factors affect resting heart rate?
Resting heart rate can indicate level of fitness, but it varies based on time of day, activity level, psychological state, sleep patterns, caffeine and alcohol intake, certain medications, and hormone levels (like thyroid hormone and cortisol).
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