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Let me tell you about my resting heart rate story. Recently I completed my annual physical and was startled to find out that my lab work showed that I was leaning towards being diagnosed with high cholesterol. Although my numbers weren’t outrageous (yet), I was certainly on the cusp of being in trouble.
Everything in my world seemed to stop and I immediately wanted to know any and everything that I could about my health and ways to decrease my cholesterol level.
During this phase, I started using a Fitbit to track exercise and more. Pretty much everyone knows that the Fitbit can be used to track your daily steps. But what I didn’t know was that depending on what model of Fitbit you have, the Fitbit can track other things like your sleep, calories burned, stairs climbed and resting heart rate. I also didn’t even realize how important my resting heart rate is.
What is your Resting Heart Rate?
In a nutshell, your resting heart rate is the pace in which your heart beats when you are sitting still and quiet. Generally, the only physical activity you are performing is breathing.
Having an increased resting heart rate can be a sign of impending heart trouble. While your overall heart rate tends to change minute by minute depending on your activity, your resting heart rate generally stays the same.
I have read that there are many factors that affect your resting heart rate including genetics and age. I was honestly shocked when I saw my resting heart rate in the 80-85 range because although the resting heart rate for an adult generally runs 60 to 100, the lower your resting heart rate is, the less your heart has to work. Generally, children have faster resting heart rates than adults and babies have faster resting heart rates than children.
Most of the studies that I saw showed that a resting heart rate under 70 is ideal. I even asked around to some of my co-workers on what their resting heart rate was and I had the highest in the group. The co-workers that I asked were in the same age bracket with similar exercise profiles.
How to Check your Resting Heart Rate
MyHeart.net explains these ways to check your resting heart rate:
- Take your pulse on the inside of your wrist on the thumb side or on the side of your neck next to your larynx (i.e. voice box or Adam’s apple).
- Use the tips of your first two fingers (index and middle fingers) to press lightly over the blood vessels on your wrist or neck.
- Count your pulse for the number of beats in 60 seconds (1 minute) or count your pulse for the number of beats in 10 seconds and multiply by 6 to find your beats per minute.
The biggest benefit of a lower resting heart rate is a substantially decreased risk of heart disease and cardiac events, like a heart attack.
Ways to Decrease Resting Heart Rate
Some of the things that you can do to decrease your resting heart rate are:
- Exercise – After my last baby was born, I joined a gym and started exercising 4-5 times a week. When I started yoga teacher training, I started slacking off at the gym because I felt like I didn’t have enough time. Now I know that some things are so important that you have to make time no matter what and exercising is one of those things for me. I’m back to going to the gym at least 4 times a week but if I fall short (because sometimes we all do), I use those days to push my Fitbit over 10,000 steps even if that means walking laps around my house or outside with our dog. (Cardio is the best exercise for improving heart function).
- Reduce stress. Studies have shown that activities such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, can possibly lower your resting heart rate over time.
- Stop smoking/Don’t smoke. People who smoke have higher resting rates. Quitting may reverse this.
- Lose weight. If you are overweight, your heart has to work harder to keep your blood pumping to your organs. Shedding some of those extra pounds takes some of the stress off of your heart and can lower your resting heart rate.
- Sleep. Here’s where my Fitbit comes in handy again. I love that my Fitbit tells me how long I slept on the previous night. Some studies have shown that disturbed sleep has a negative impact on your resting heart rate. Because of this, you should aim for at least 8 hours of sleep nightly.
Even if you have no issues with your resting heart rate, the good news is by exercising, not smoking, and getting more sleep, you can still make potential improvements to your overall health.