Why Knowing Your Resting Heart Rate is Important

Get a pulse on your heart health

By: Emily Freeman

We don’t have to think about making our heart beat — it just does it. Most of us know the importance of having a healthy heart, but do you really check in on your heart health? Let’s be honest, most of us aren’t sitting around measuring our pulse on a regular basis! So, it’s not surprising that many people have no idea what their resting heart rate is (or even how to check it). However, your resting heart rate is one of the most important data points for your heart health! Knowing your resting heart rate and understanding what it means will allow you to take control of your health and be the best version of yourself. 

RELATED: The Best Types of Exercise For Heart Health 

What is Resting Heart Rate?

Your resting heart rate is how many times your heart beats in one minute when you’re not exerting any energy. And, measuring your resting heart rate is easier than you think! At least one hour after exercise or any stressful event, place your right index and middle finger lightly over your left wrist where you would wear a watch. Make sure your right palm is facing down and your left palm is facing up. If you’ve found the right spot, you should be able to feel your heartbeat. You can also do the same on the side of your neck right below your jawline. Set a timer and count the number of beats in 15 seconds. Multiply this number by 4 to calculate your resting heart rate. 

Your resting heart rate can be affected by your age, activity level, medications, air temperature, emotions, body weight and size, and your body positioning. 

Feeling nervous or excited, being in hot weather, ingesting caffeine, pregnancy, and specific medications can increase your heart rate. Plus, if you’re obese or live a sedentary lifestyle, you may also notice an elevated heart rate.

On the other hand, you may notice a lower resting heart rate when you’re relaxed, lying down, or living an active lifestyle. Keep in mind that your resting heart rate may be lower when you first wake up or due to certain medications.   

Why is Resting Heart Rate So Important?

The heart circulates oxygen and nutrient-rich blood throughout your body. So, if your heart isn’t doing its job properly, your entire body and health can be affected. Your heart rate signifies how much blood is being pumped out with each beat and how hard your heart is having to work in the process. 

Knowing your resting heart rate could even save your life. Having too fast or slow of a resting heart rate could indicate a serious underlying health condition. 

What is a Good Resting Heart Rate?

60 to 100 beats per minute is what many doctors consider a “normal” heart rate. However, some experts say it should be closer to 50 to 70 beats per minute. It’s also important to consider your age when measuring your heart rate — our resting heart rate tends to slightly change as we get older. 

How to Lower Resting Heart Rate

You hold the power to a healthy heart! 

If you have an elevated resting heart rate, there are simple ways you can take back control. With a few lifestyle changes, you can lower your resting heart rate and improve your overall health tremendously. 

#1 Get in Enough Cardiovascular Exercise 

The CDC recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week to maintain a healthy heart. If this seems like a lot, don’t worry. It’s better to start gradually and build up to the recommended amount. You can start by breaking up your workouts into shorter bursts throughout the day. 

Try doing two 10-minute workouts per day, like a brisk walk in the morning and a quick strength video in the evening. Browse the quick HIITs category in the FitOn app for a variety of quick workouts that can be squeezed into even the busiest day. 

Note: When you exercise, your heart rate will go up. However, over time, you’ll notice your resting heart rate start to go down. 

#2 Manage your Stress Levels

Stress can play a huge role in your heart health. Too much adrenaline and cortisol pumping through your body can cause your heart rate to become chronically elevated. 

Manage your stress with daily practices like meditation, yoga, outdoor walks and activities, and journaling. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a few minutes to ground yourself with the FitOn app! Try the Free From Anxiety meditation with DeAndre Sinette when you need a mid-day stress release. 

#3 Quit Unhealthy Habits 

Smokers have a higher resting heart rate. If you’ve picked up this habit, don’t judge yourself! Instead, use this as a sign to look into safe ways to quit.

#4 Focus on Nutrient-Rich Foods 

Your food choices also affect your heart health! Focus on getting in enough whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, veggies, and healthy fats while reducing the amount of processed, fried, and sugary foods in your diet.

Try incorporating these delicious and heart-healthy foods and nutrients. 

Salmon and walnuts, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Tea, which is high in phenols. Leafy green veggies, which are high in vitamin A. Brown rice, quinoa, oats, apples, and beans, which are high in dietary fiber. Citrus fruits, strawberries, bell pepper, leafy greens, and sprouts, which are high in vitamin C. 

#5 Drink Plenty of Water and Reduce Caffeine and Alcohol Intake

Staying hydrated is important for your overall health. Plus, dehydration can lead to an increased heart rate. When you’re dehydrated, your heart has to work harder to stabilize blood flow, leading to an elevated resting heart rate. 

Caffeinated and alcoholic beverages also work against you since they are natural diuretics and actually can cause dehydration. 

Make sure to always have a glass or bottle of water with you throughout the day and aim to drink at least 64 ounces. Keep in mind, this is the baseline — you’ll need more if you plan on exercising, drinking coffee, or having an adult beverage that day.  

#6 Make Sleep a Priority 

Did you know that getting enough sleep plays a role in heart health? Yup, and in fact, not getting enough sleep (less than 7 hours each night), has been linked to high blood pressure. When you sleep, your blood pressure decreases, but when you are skimping on sleep, your blood pressure stays higher for longer, according to the CDC.

So to help support overall wellness, heart health, and your energy levels, prioritize sleep! If you have difficulty getting those 7 plus hours per night, consider implementing an evening routine, going to bed and waking up at the same time each night, avoiding blue light too close to bedtime, making your bedroom your sanctuary, or trying an evening sleep meditation. All of these things can help support better sleep habits.

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to Sleep

Show Your Heart Some Love

Your heart is your life force, so don’t forget to show your heart daily gratitude with habits to improve your health! 

Your overall well-being is greatly affected by your heart health. So, when you start incorporating healthy lifestyle choices such as exercise, a healthy diet, stress-reducing techniques, more sleep and water, and fewer stimulants into your daily life, you’ll start to notice big changes. Maybe you notice an increase in energy or a clearer mind, or maybe you recognize how much easier your daily activities become! And, what’s not to love about that?! 

As always, if you suspect you may have an underlying health condition affecting your heart rate, consult a doctor.