What does your heart rate mean?

Tuesday October 13, 2020
A woman checking her heart rate

. Your target heart rate is between 50 and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate

. Listen to your body and understand the signs

. A lower resting heart rate is optimal because it means your heart is highly efficient

Today we talk about heart rate and the things you should be mindful of when exercising. To calculate your maximum heart rate the most basic rule is to subtract your age from 220. For most people the target heart rate is considered to be somewhere between 50 and 85 percent of their maximum heart rate. While experts differ on whether people should obsess over this, the best approach seems to be to use it as a guide. If you’re falling under that 50 per cent threshold, it could be interpreted as a sign that maybe you can afford to work a bit harder, but within reason.

The most important thing is to know your own body. You have to listen to the signs and understand what you’re capable of. Things of this nature are a guide to help you in the right direction. The more informed you are and the more knowledge you have the better off you will be. Your resting heart rate is one of the benchmarks that medical experts will use to determine your overall health. What this is really judging is efficiency and functionality by assessing how hard your heart has to work on a day to day basis.

Lower is better

With that in mind, a lower resting heart rate is optimal because it means your heart is so efficient it doesn’t need to work as hard to do its job properly. Everything is in good order. For adults, between 60 and 80 beats per minute is considered optimal any anything above 90 is usually considered a little high.

A high resting heart rate is considered dangerous because it’s interpreted as a predictor of cardiovascular disease down the road. It’s important to address the issue early and rectify it while you’re healthy enough to do so. The way to do that is through diet, exercise and lifestyle.

This study looked at the correlation between resting heart rate and the overall fitness of Brazilian adolescents. It first defines the meaning behind the numbers:

‘Heart rate reflects the number of contractions of the ventricles per unit time and fluctuates substantially with variations in systemic demand for oxygen.’ What this basically means is that the heart has to work harder when it’s not getting the appropriate supply of oxygen. The findings indicate that aerobic exercise is beneficial to your overall health. They also underline why it’s important to get into good exercise habits at a young age and maintain them right throughout your life.

Above 90

But what if you start entering that danger zone above 90 beats per minute. This study interprets the data as such:

‘Results from this meta-analysis suggest the risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality increased by 9% and 8% for every 10 beats/min increment of resting heart rate….but a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular mortality was observed at 90 beats/min.’

So again, when you approach that 90 beats per minute threshold you’re entering dangerous territory and it’s important to activate lifestyle choices for your own health and wellbeing. You need to make some serious life decisions before it’s too late.

It’s important for people of all ages to monitor their heart rate and take the data seriously. But the good news is that through diet and exercise you can rectify any underlying issues and preserve your long term health provided that you fully commit to the correct course of action.


NCBI: Association between Resting Heart Rate and Health-Related Physical Fitness in Brazilian Adolescents


NCBI: Resting heart rate and all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in the general population: a meta-analysis




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