Healthy Heart Rate Ranges and When to Contact a Doctor
For most adults, a typical resting heart rate is somewhere in the range of 60–100 beats per minute (bpm). This can reflect a heart that is pumping blood effectively and has a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Read on to learn more about when a resting heart rate might be dangerous and what to do about it.
However, your resting heart rate can depend on several factors, including your general health, fitness, age, and sex. Even the weather can change your heart rate, and it may beat faster on hot days.
The fitter you are, the lower your resting heart rate tends to be. Health considerations that can raise your heart rate include chronic stress, smoking, and being overweight. Certain medications can also play a role in raising or lowering your heart rate. Beta-blockers, for example, slow the heart rate.
If your heart rate is consistently below 60 bpm or above 100 bpm, it might mean that you need to check in with your doctor.
|Resting heart rate||Possible health risks|
|The heart rate is consistently below 60 bpm.||The heart may not be not pumping enough blood to supply the body. This might lead to fainting, dizziness, or, in severe cases, heart failure. However, some people — such as athletes — have low resting heart rates and are healthy.|
|This heart rate is consistently above 100 bpm.||The heart may be straining. This can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, or stroke.|
Symptoms that could be dangerous
If you notice the following symptoms, contact a doctor immediately or call 911:
Your resting heart rate may change as you age, and this is perfectly healthy. Below is a table to illustrate this change.
|Age||Typical resting heart rate range (bpm)|
|younger than 28 days old||100–205|
|1–12 months old||90–160|
|1–2 years old||98–140|
|3–5 years old||80–120|
|6–11 years old||75–118|
|12 years old and above, including adults||60–100|
Typical resting heart rates may lower slightly when the person is sleeping.
As mentioned before, your resting heart rate can change according to a variety of factors, including medication use and fitness level. However, if you feel concerned about your or a child’s resting heart rate, seek medical advice.
The heart rates of males and females vary slightly, with females tending to have higher bpm counts. This is mainly because females’ hearts are typically smaller and need to pump more to generate the necessary amount of blood the body needs.
Below are the average resting heart rates by sex.
|Average resting heart rate (bpm)||70–72||78–82|
If you notice that your heart rate has increased slightly, it may be that your fitness levels have decreased. Undertaking regular exercise and maintaining a moderate weight can help bring it back down.
Some other factors that can cause a high heart rate include:
If your high heart rate results from an underlying condition, your doctor may refer you to a cardiologist to work out the cause.
There are various conditions that can raise your resting heart rate, including:
- Atrial tachycardia: Electrical signals that help regulate heartbeat in the upper chambers of the heart fire rapidly. This can be due to anxiety or stress, caffeine intake, excessive alcohol use, or smoking. It is not generally linked to having a heart attack.
- Ventricular tachycardia: Electrical signals in the lower chamber of the heart fire rapidly. This may happen due to coronary artery disease, sarcoidosis (an inflammatory condition), structural problems with the heart, medication use, or cocaine use.
- Sinus tachycardia: Your heart rate rises in response to fear, distress, anxiety, exertion, hyperthyroidism, fever, and some medications. Less commonly, this may be due to heart muscle damage or anemia, among other conditions.
How to lower your heart rate
If you want to lower your heart rate, talk with your doctor before you make any major changes to your lifestyle or activity level.
Below are some tips to lower your heart rate:
- Exercise often: When you are active, you strengthen all your muscles, including your heart muscle. It will beat more efficiently, and it will not need to work as hard to get blood around your body. Exercise is effective for this purpose when your heart rate exceeds 100 bpm during the activity you choose.
- Follow a healthy diet and lifestyle: Maintaining a moderate weight puts less strain on your heart. Eating fruits, vegetables, and lean protein, not smoking, and limiting alcohol consumption are cornerstones of a lifestyle that can lower your heart rate.
- Reduce or learn to manage stress: Stress can raise the heart rate because it makes the body release adrenaline. Removing sources of stress where you can and learning ways to manage it, such as through breathing and relaxation techniques, can lower your heart rate.
- Learn vagal maneuvers: With your doctor’s approval, you can learn techniques such as vagal maneuvers, which involve breathing out with your stomach while holding your nose. Your doctor may suggest that you lie down while you are doing this. Vagal maneuvers affect the vagus nerve, which is involved in the heart’s electrical impulses and can slow down the heart rate.
A low heart rate, below 60 bpm, is called bradycardia. It can happen due to:
- high levels of fitness, which can be perfectly healthy
- taking medications for high blood pressure or an irregular heartbeat
- low thyroid function
- a structural defect in the heart
- a problem with your body’s electrical impulses that regulate the heartbeat, possibly due to coronary artery disease, heart attack, or heart infections
If you feel dizzy, short of breath, fatigued, or confused, it could indicate bradycardia. A cardiologist can diagnose its cause, though episodes of low heart rate tend to come and go, so you may have to wear a heart monitor for a while.
Treatment includes implanting a pacemaker, taking medication, or treating the underlying condition.
You can check your pulse by putting your index finger and middle finger on your wrist, a little below your thumb. Feel for the pulse of the artery and count the number of beats there are in 30 seconds. Double that number to get the number of beats there are in a minute.
If you want to check your resting pulse, check it for several days in a row, ideally before you get out of bed or when you have been sitting for a while. This is because your pulse will go up and down often during the day. You can also use a fitness or health tracking device to measure your pulse.
If your resting pulse is over 100 bpm or below 60 bpm, contact your doctor so that they can assess you and possibly refer you to a cardiologist. These healthcare professionals can examine you, ask about your symptoms, and administer tests to see if you have heart disease or another factor that affects your heart’s ability to pump blood.
Your doctor may recommend exercising, taking medication, or undergoing surgery to treat any underlying heart conditions.
If you have chest pain, feel like your heart is beating very rapidly, faint, or feel dizzy, seek emergency care. Call 911 or go to an emergency room.
Healthy resting heart rates can vary according to a person’s age, sex, and fitness level. Generally, a typical resting heart rate is in the range of 60–100 bpm.
Understanding the healthy range of your own heart rate and when it is too high or too low can help you be aware of how fit you are and when you may need to contact a doctor.
If you know how to measure your pulse or have a fitness device that tracks your heart rate, it can help you understand how your heart is doing.