Resting Heart Rate

Your resting heart rate isn’t traditionally something that you need a lot of technology to understand. Just put two fingers on your neck where you can feel your pulse and count the beats for a whole minute. It may not sound as fancy as a device that counts your steps for you or measures your sleep patterns, but your resting heart rate can tell you a lot about your overall health (

Most people have a heart that beats somewhere between 60 and 100 times in one minute. Of course, that goes up during activity. If it’s high even when you’re resting, that could mean there’s a problem. Your heart might be beating faster because the heart muscle is weak and a single contraction can’t send as much blood around the body, meaning it needs more contractions to make sure it pumps enough blood.

Causes of an excessively high resting heart rate can vary. It’s not all heart failure, although that’s a big one. Cardiac abnormalities, infections, fever, thyroid problems, heat stroke, dehydration and lack of oxygen are all potential contributors. Of course, it might just mean you recently had a cup of coffee or are taking some kind of stimulant medication (or illegal stimulants, like cocaine).

A low resting heart rate isn’t always bad. If it’s around 50 beats per minute but there are no other symptoms, it’s probably not going to cause any major problems. Highly trained athletes tend to have lower heart rates because all that exercise has made their hearts stronger and more efficient. They can pump more blood with less cardiac effort.

Sometimes a low resting heart rate comes with other issues, such as dizziness or shortness of breath, in which case it may be time to talk to a doctor. That’s especially true in the elderly, for whom it’s more of a risk. High resting heart rates become more dangerous with age because it could represent atrial fibrillation or another arrhythmia that, even if not immediately life-threatening, can present a risk of blood clots that needs to be treated.

Resolving a high resting heart rate in a non-emergency situation means identifying possible causes, from stress and caffeine to structural defects in the heart. First, however, you need to know your resting heart rate. Don’t be so distracted by the fancy tech that you forget the simple things.

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