Does your heart beat too fast or too slow? If it does, should you be concerned? Find out what a normal heart rate is and what can make it too fast or too slow.
The heart has a tough job and it never gets a day off. It’s constantly pumping blood and oxygen to meet whatever demands are thrust upon it, and it usually does it well. Even while you’re in a blissful state of sleep, the heart keeps right on rhythmically pumping. Not surprisingly, the rate at which your heart beats can vary depending on what you’re doing and even on your mood. What is a normal heart for most people?
Not surprisingly, normal resting heart rate varies from person to person. For healthy adults, a normal resting heart rate would be somewhere between sixty and one-hundred beats per minute. Children normally have a faster heartbeat than an adult with an infant having a rate as high as 160 beats per minute. The heart rate slows down with age, so that adults who are over the age of fifty usually have resting heart rates in the low seventies. People who are athletic or very physically fit may have a normal heart rate in the forties and fifties. When the heart is continuously challenged through aerobic exercise, it becomes more efficient and can pump the same amount of blood with fewer overall heartbeats.
A variety of factors can alter the normal resting heart rate. Obviously exercise is a factor since the heart has to work harder to supply oxygen to working muscles, but mental state also plays a role. During times of mental stress or fear the heart rate can increase significantly due to release of stress related hormones, particularly adrenaline. Adrenaline is the hormone associated with the “fight or flight response”. During times of relaxation, particularly meditation, the normal resting heart rate is lower. Air temperature and body temperature can also affect heart rate. A hot environment causes the heart to speed up in an attempt to pump more blood to the body’s surface to allow quicker cooling.
When is a normal resting pulse rate not so normal? When the heart rate falls out of the sixty to one hundred beat per minute range in a non-athletic adult, it may need evaluation. Some types of heart disease can cause an abnormally fast or slow heart rate, but other medical conditions can too. A fast resting heart rate can be a sign of an overactive thyroid or other metabolic problems, electrolyte imbalances, dehydration, anemia, or an underlying infection. An abnormally slow heart rate can occur with an underactive thyroid, electrolyte imbalances, malnutrition, and various metabolic disorders – among others. Certain medications can also increase or decrease how fast the heart beats.
The bottom line? In most cases a pulse rate at the high or low end of normal isn’t a cause for concern unless it’s irregular or associated with shortness of breath, chest pain, or lightheadedness; but a resting heart rate falling outside the normal range should probably be checked out by a doctor – just to be safe.