Heart rates can vary from person to person, but what’s considered normal? And when is a heart rate considered dangerous? Read on to learn more.
When your heart rate is too fast, it’s called tachycardia. For adults, a fast heart rate is generally defined as a heart rate over 100 beats per minute.
However, what’s considered too fast may also depend on your age and overall health.
Some possible causes of tachycardia can include:
- an underlying health condition
- anxiety or stress
- heavy caffeine consumption
- heavy alcohol consumption
- electrolyte imbalance
- intense or strenuous exercise or physical activity
- side effects from medication
- cigarette smoking
- certain drug use (such as cocaine)
When your heart rate is too slow, it’s referred to as bradycardia. Bradycardia is typically defined as a heart rate that’s less than 60 beats per minute.
For athletes and people that exercise regularly, a heart rate of under 60 beats per minute is normal and even healthy.
Some possible causes of bradycardia include:
As mentioned earlier, both tachycardia and bradycardia can be indicators of an underlying health condition. If you’re experiencing either, you could have an underlying condition that requires medical evaluation and treatment.
Tachycardia can be caused by an underlying health condition such as:
- congenital heart disease
- heart disease that’s affecting blood flow
- injury to the heart, such as from a heart attack
Bradycardia can be caused by the following conditions:
- congenital heart disease
- damage to the heart (which can come from aging, heart disease, or a heart attack)
- inflammatory diseases, such as lupus or rheumatic fever
- myocarditis, an infection of the heart
If you experience a heart rate that’s too high or too low for an extended period of time, it can lead to a variety of potentially serious health complications, including:
You should visit your doctor if your heart rate is consistently above 100 beats per minute or below 60 beats per minute (and you’re not an athlete).
In addition to a heart rate, you should look out for other symptoms such as:
- being short of breath
- feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- feeling fluttering or palpitations in your chest
- having pain or discomfort in your chest
Emergency symptoms You should always seek immediate emergency care for the following symptoms:
- chest pain lasting longer than a few minutes
- difficulty breathing
Your doctor may use a variety of diagnostic tools to help diagnose your condition, including:
- Electrocardiogram. Also referred to as an ECG or EKG, this diagnostic tool uses small electrodes to record the electrical activity of your heart. Your doctor can use the information collected to determine if heart abnormalities are contributing to your condition.
- Imaging tests. Imaging can be used to assess if there are any structural abnormalities in your heart that may be contributing to your condition. Possible imaging tests can include echocardiogram, CT scan, and MRI scan.
- Laboratory tests. Your doctor may order blood tests to determine if your condition is caused by something such as an electrolyte imbalance or thyroid disease.
Once a diagnosis is made, your doctor will work with you to develop a plan to treat and manage your condition.
Depending on the findings from the diagnostic tests, your doctor may refer you to a cardiologist. A cardiologist specializes in treating and preventing diseases of the heart and circulatory system.
Additionally, you should plan to visit your doctor regularly for physicals. Not only is it good practice, but it can also help with early detection of things like high cholesterol or blood pressure abnormalities.
If you already have heart disease, you should carefully monitor your condition and stick to your treatment plan. Take all medications as instructed by your doctor. Be sure to promptly report any new or worsening symptoms.
Some additional preventative health tips to help keep your heart healthy and happy include:
- Find ways to reduce stress. Examples of ways to do this can include things like yoga or meditation.
- Limit your caffeine intake. Using too much caffeine can lead to increases in heart rate.
- Moderate your drinking. Women and men over 65 should only have one drink per day. Men under 65 should only have two drinks per day.
- Quit smoking. Smoking increases your heart rate and quitting can help bring it back down.
- Be aware of medication side effects. Some medications can affect your heart rate. Always be aware of possible side effects before taking a medication.
Your heart is a muscular organ that works to pump oxygen-rich blood and nutrients to the tissues of your body. The muscles of your heart contract and relax to push blood through your blood vessels.
You can feel that movement of blood through your blood vessels as your pulse. This is the number of times that your heart beats in one minute. It’s estimated that over a 70-year period, a person’s heart may beat over 2.5 billion times!
Normal resting heart rate for adults
Your resting heart rate is when your heart is pumping the minimal amount of blood that your body needs because you’re at rest. Normal resting heart rate can vary from person to person, but for most adults, it’s between 60 and 100 beats per minute.
Normal resting heart rate for kids
Children’s heart rates are normally faster than those of adults. According to Cleveland Clinic, the normal resting heart rate for a child aged six to 15 is between 70 to 100 beats per minute.
Many factors can affect your resting heart rate, including your level of physical activity. In fact, highly trained athletes can have a resting heart rate of around 40 beats per minute!
Other factors that can affect resting heart rate include:
- Age. You may find that your resting heart rate decreases as you get older.
- Temperature. Your heart rate may increase slightly when you’re exposed to hot temperatures.
- Medication side effects. For example, medications such as beta-blockers can lower your resting heart rate.
- Emotions. If you’re anxious or excited, your heart rate may increase.
- Weight. People who are obese may have a higher resting heart rate. This is because the heart has to work harder to supply the body with blood.
- Body positioning. Heart rate can increase temporarily when you move from a sitting to a standing position
- Smoking. Smokers tend to have a higher resting heart rate. Quitting smoking can help bring it back down.
Resting heart rate can vary from person to person and be influenced by a variety of factors. A normal resting heart rate for an adult is between 60 and 100 beats per minute.
Both tachycardia and bradycardia can be indicators of other health conditions. If left untreated, they can lead to potentially serious health complications.
If you’re experiencing a heart rate that’s consistently too high or too low, you should make an appointment with your doctor.