A typical pulse rate for adults is between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm). Depending on your activity, your rate can be higher or lower. But, a heart rate of over 100 bmp that occurs with shortness of breath or chest pain may be dangerous.
Your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats in a minute. Your heart rate doesn’t always stay the same. In fact, you may be familiar that it can sometimes change in response to things like your activity level and emotional state.
Heart rate is often measured when you’re at rest and relaxed. This is called your resting heart rate.
For adults, a typical resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm). The resting heart rate for children can be higher than that of adults, depending on their age.
While heart rates can vary from person to person, certain heart rates can be considered dangerous. Read on to learn more.
To understand a dangerous heart rate, you first need to know what a normal heart rate should be. This is not always straightforward as it varies between individuals according to their age, activity levels, and other factors.
However, there are a few “normal” parameters.
Your resting heart rate is when your heart pumps the minimal amount of blood that your body needs because you’re at rest.
Resting heart rates can vary by individual. Additionally, factors like age, activity level, and certain medications can also impact your resting heart rate.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), a normal resting heart rate is
For example, athletes may find their heart rates are lower, sometimes as low as 40 bpm. Additionally, people taking certain medications, like beta-blockers, may also have a lower resting heart rate. We’ll explore more factors that can influence resting heart rate later on.
The table below shows the average normal resting heart rate for adults based on age.
|Age range (years)||Average resting heart rate (bpm)|
|18 to 20||81.6|
|21 to 30||80.2|
|31 to 40||78.5|
|41 to 50||75.3|
|51 to 60||73.9|
|61 to 70||73.0|
|71 to 80||74.2|
As children grow, their normal resting heart rate changes. The table below shows pediatric resting heart rates, both when children are awake and asleep, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
|Age||Waking resting heart rate (bpm)||Sleeping resting heart rate (bpm)|
|Newborn to 3 months||85 to 205||80 to 160|
|3 months to 2 years||100 to 190||75 to 160|
|2 years to 10 years||60 to 140||60 to 90|
|Over 10 years||60 to 100||50 to 90|
In addition to age, a few other factors can affect your resting heart rate.
- Temperature. Your heart rate may increase slightly when you’re exposed to hot temperatures.
- Pain. This
may increasethe heart rate due to a stress response.
- Medication side effects. Medications, like beta-blockers, can lower your resting heart rate.
- Emotions. If you’re anxious or excited, your heart rate may increase.
- Weight. People with obesity may have a higher resting heart rate. This is because the heart has to work harder to supply the body with blood.
- Anemia. In anemia, low levels of red blood cells can cause the heart to beat faster in order to supply your body with oxygen-rich blood.
- Endocrine or hormonal abnormalities. Abnormal levels of some hormones can influence heart rate. For example, too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) can increase heart rate while too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) can decrease heart rate.
- Postural tachycardia syndrome (PoTS). This syndrome produces an abnormal increase in heart rate after sitting up or standing. In addition to heart palpitations, some typical symptoms of PoTS include dizziness and fainting.
- 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. This is often difficult, but a doctor can help build a cessation plan that works for you.
Your maximum heart rate is a calculation that helps you figure out what your ideal target heart rate is during exercise.
You can estimate your maximum age-related heart rate by
This maximum heart rate calculation helps you see if you’re exercising too hard or not putting in enough energy. Your target heart rate uses this calculation to reflect the ideal bpm you need for a great workout.
What is a target heart rate?
According to the
So for 35-year-olds, a goal target heart rate is between 93 and 157 bpm (50 to 85 percent of their maximum).
The table below shows the target heart rate range and average maximum heart rate for different ages, based on information from the AHA.
|Age (years)||Target heart rate (50% to 85%) (bpm)||Average maximum heart rate (bpm)|
|20||100 to 170||200|
|30||95 to 162||190|
|35||93 to 157||185|
|40||90 to 153||180|
|45||88 to 149||175|
|50||85 to 145||170|
|55||83 to 140||165|
|60||80 to 136||160|
|65||78 to 132||155|
|70||75 to 128||150|
There may be times when you experience a heart rate that’s faster or slower than what’s normal for you. Not every single instance of this type of bpm imbalance is considered “dangerous,” especially when a doctor is monitoring it.
High heart rate
When your heart rate is too fast, it’s called tachycardia. For adults, a fast heart rate is defined as
But what’s considered too fast may also depend on your age and overall health.
There are several types of tachycardia, like:
Their classification is based on their cause and the part of the heart they affect. Experiencing tachycardia may be temporary.
Some possible causes of sinus tachycardia can include:
- an underlying health condition
- anxiety or stress
- heavy caffeine consumption
- heavy alcohol consumption
- electrolyte imbalance
- hormonal problems (i.e., thyroid)
- intense or strenuous exercise or physical activity
- side effects from medication
- cigarette smoking
- use of certain drugs (like cocaine)
Slow heart rate
When your heart rate is too slow, it’s referred to as bradycardia. Bradycardia is typically defined as a heart rate
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:
- side effects from medications
- electrolyte imbalance
- obstructive sleep apnea
- an underlying health condition
- being an older adult
- problems with the conduction system of the heart
Borderline or occasional bradycardia may not need treatment. But prolonged bradycardia, or bradycardia that’s not treated, can become more serious. It can lead to dizziness and fainting.
Certain underlying conditions are typically the true decider of what a “dangerous” heart rate is. If you’re already living with heart disease, heart failure, or a history of heart disease and notice a fluctuation in your heart rate, you should go to the doctor as soon as you can, as it could be a sign of a serious complication.
When is it an emergency?
See a doctor or go to the nearest emergency room as soon as you can if you notice a sudden change in your heartbeat that’s accompanied by:
- shortness of breath
- chest tightness or pain
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- an inability to exercise
It could be a sign of a serious heart complication.
While there are a wide variety of wearable devices that can help you check your own heart rate, you can also do it manually.
- Find your pulse on the inside of your wrist
- Using the tips of your first two fingers, press lightly over the artery
- Count your pulse for 30 seconds, and then multiply that number by 2 to find your beats per minute
Note: Don’t rely on this method if you’re feeling like your heart is beating too fast or too slow and you’re uncomfortable. The best solution for this scenario is to get a doctor’s advice.
Tachycardia, which is when your heart rate is faster than it should be, can be caused by underlying health conditions like:
- congenital heart disease
- heart disease that’s affecting blood flow
- injury to the heart, like from a heart attack
- ventricular or supraventricular arrhythmias
Taking illegal drugs (like stimulants like cocaine or methamphetamines) or misusing prescription medications or non-prescription products (like diet supplements) may also cause your heart to beat too fast.
Other, less serious reasons for a fast heart rate include:
- drinking caffeine
- drinking alcohol
- physical exercise
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), or you’re also experiencing:
- shortness of breath
- fainting spells
- lightheadedness or dizziness
- feeling fluttering or palpitations in your chest
- having pain or discomfort in your chest
- an inability to exercise
If you need help finding a primary care doctor, then check out our FindCare tool here.
Your doctor may use a variety of diagnostic tools to help diagnose your condition, including:
- Holter or event monitor. This is a smaller, portable EKG machine you wear for a set amount of time to help your doctor monitor your electrocardiographic signals.
- 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.
- Stress test. Sometimes called a treadmill test or exercise test, this can help diagnose people whose symptoms may be exercise related.
- A tilt-table test. This measures how your blood pressure and heart rate respond when you go from lying down to standing up. People dealing with fainting spells are usually candidates for a tilt-table test.
- 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.
- Electrophysiologictesting. Done under local anesthesia, this procedure involves temporary electrode catheters being threaded through veins into the heart to record the heart’s electrical signals.
Once a diagnosis is made, your doctor will work with you to develop a plan to treat and manage your condition.
You should always aim to take good care of your heart. This includes exercising regularly, eating heart-healthy foods, minimizing alcohol, and maintaining a moderate weight.
Additionally, you should visit your doctor regularly for physicals. Not only is it good practice, but it can also help with the early detection of 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.
Other heart health tips include:
- Find ways to reduce stress. Examples include things like yoga or meditation.
- Limit your caffeine intake when possible. Using too much caffeine can increase heart rate.
- Limit intake of energy drinks.
- Moderate your intake of alcohol. Women should only have one drink or less per day while men should have two or fewer drinks per day.
- Quit smoking. Smoking increases your heart rate, and quitting can help bring it back down.
- Avoid cannabis. Cannabis use
may cause cardiovascular complicationsfor some.
- Be aware of medication side effects. Always be aware of possible side effects before taking a medication.
- Prioritize sleep. Also make sure you’re not dealing with sleep apnea, a common condition that can cause lapses in breathing while sleeping and can also affect heart rate.
What heart rate is an emergency?
Heart rates can vary according to individual habits and other factors. However, the following symptoms are always a medical emergency:
- any change in heart rate
- chest pain or tightness
- shortness of breath
- faintness or dizziness
- an inability to do any activity
They may be a sign of a serious heart condition.
What heart rate is too high?
Doctors usually consider a heart rate of
Is 120 heart rate normal?
Generally, a resting heart rate is high if it is over
If your resting heart rate is persistently at or above 120 bpm for a while — such as several hours — for no obvious reason, it may be a good idea to seek medical help.
Is 200 a safe heart rate?
A heart rate of
Resting heart rate can vary from person to person and can be influenced by a variety of factors. A normal resting heart rate for an adult (who isn’t an athlete) is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. The normal heart rate for children changes as they age.
Both tachycardia (fast heart rate) and bradycardia (low heart rate) are typically 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 a doctor, as there are a variety of reasons this could be occurring. While not all of these reasons are dangerous, some could be signs of heart trouble.