The number of times your heart beats in a minute is your heart rate. Your pulse speeds up when you are moving around, whereas your resting heart rate is how fast it beats when you are relaxed and sitting or lying down.
Keeping your resting heart rate in the normal range is closely linked with living a longer life. If it is consistently lower or higher, it can be a sign of certain health conditions.
You can measure your resting heart rate at home and you don’t need any special equipment. By checking it yourself, you can find out whether to speak to a doctor about your heart health and take action to lower your pulse if needed.
What is a normal adult heart rate?
The recommended range for resting heart rate is the same for everyone regardless of age, unless you’re an athlete or very fit. What’s normal for you depends on your overall health. Babies and children can have a much faster resting heart rate, which gradually slows down until they are around 10 years old.
|Normal resting heart rate||Beats per minute (BPM)|
|Healthy adults and children aged 10+||60-100|
Some people have a naturally higher or lower heart rate than this, but speak to a doctor if yours consistently falls outside the normal range.
It’s normal for your heart to beat faster when you’re exercising. It’s important to keep active as your heart, just like any other muscle, needs to be exercised to keep it healthy. Speak to a GP if you’re worried about exercising with an underlying health condition.
What if my heart is beating too fast?
A racing heart isn’t always a cause for concern but it's a good idea to understand what’s behind it to see whether you need to get checked out.
A resting heart rate of more than 100 beats per minute is considered high. This is called tachycardia. If your heart is pounding, it usually means your body is under stress. Common triggers include:
- Illness or infection
- A fever
- Anxiety or stress
- Lack of sleep
- Caffeine, alcohol, nicotine or recreational drugs
- An overactive thyroid
- The menopause
- Low physical fitness
Sometimes a fast pulse is a sign of a heart rhythm problem. Atrial fibrillation is when abnormal electrical activity in your heart causes it to race or skip a beat.
What should I do?
If your heart is often racing, make an appointment to see a doctor. Seek urgent medical advice if you notice a sudden change to your heart beat, feel dizzy, faint or get chest pain.
When to worry about low heart rate
Having a resting heart rate of less than 60 beats per minute is called bradycardia. It can be normal for people who are very fit because their circulation system is strong enough to pump blood around the body with fewer heart beats.
It is also more common in people over 65 and can be caused by beta blockers, which are a medicine that treats heart conditions and high blood pressure.
What should I do?
Bradycardia might not cause you any symptoms, but it’s best to get it checked out. It can signal an underlying health condition such as a heart problem or your thyroid not working properly. If you’re feeling tired, faint and dizzy and your heart rate is low, it’s important to get checked by a doctor urgently.
How can you check your pulse?
Although there are home devices to measure your heart rate, you can also do it easily using a timer or a clock.
1. Rest for a few minutes first
You’ll need to let your heart rate settle before you measure it. Sit or lie down and take a few deep breaths. For maximum accuracy, the best time to measure is first thing in the morning, before you get out of bed.
2. Find your pulse
Place 2 fingers on your wrist, just below where your thumb is. If you can’t feel anything then press a bit harder. You should be able to feel a soft pulsing under your finger.
3. Count the number of beats in 30 seconds
Set a timer for 30 seconds or watch a clock. Count how many times you feel your heart beating within this time.
4. Multiply that number by two
To work out your resting heart rate, take the number of beats within 30 seconds and double it. For example, if you counted 40 beats then your resting heart rate is 80 beats per minute.
It’s also useful to keep an eye on the rhythm. An arrhythmia, or an irregular beat, is when your heart skips a beat or flutters, and though it’s usually nothing serious, it should be checked by a doctor.
Tips for lowering my heart rate
Bringing your heart rate into the normal range gives you a better chance of living a longer, healthier life.
Studies show that lifestyle changes can lower your resting heart rate and reduce your risk of related heart conditions. These steps include:
When should I speak to a doctor?
If you are worried about your heart rate, see a doctor. They will help figure out whether it’s normal or if you need to take action.
You should also make an appointment if:
You notice chest pain or sudden changes to your heartbeat Your heart rate often falls outside the normal range (60-100 bpm) You feel dizzy, tired, or have shortness of breath
Get urgent medical help if you think you’ve spotted the signs of a heart attack.
This article has been medically approved by Dr Bryony Henderson, Lead GP at Livi.