The other day whilst in a conversation with a friend, she asked me if I knew the meaning of the term “High pulse rate at rest”. I explained that it is the term used to describe the number of heartbeats per minute when the body is not in exercise mode.
When we are just resting, relaxing or not doing anything the heart doesn’t need to pump so strongly. It is a bit like an automobile waiting at the kerb with the engine ticking over. The minute you put your foot down or need extra speed the engine will use more revs to deliver the power.
A normal pulse rate should be between 50 – 70 pulses per minute. Tests done by Danish researchers using 3,000 middle aged men over a period of sixteen years showed that the higher the resting heart rate, the higher the risk of premature death. It was calculated that every 10 to 22 additional beats per minute in the resting heart rate dramatically increases the risk compared with those who had rates below 50 beats.
Even people with above average fitness levels aren’t immune from risk and researchers admit that they have no idea why this is so.
Some common reasons that may cause a change in the resting pulse rate are:
- Air Temperature. If temperature and humidity go up the heart may need to pump more blood causing the pulse rate to increase.
- Medication. Some prescribed medications can cause a rise or drop in the heart rate. Doctors are well aware of the side effects so it is wise to be fully conversant with the facts about any medication you are taking.
- Emotions. This can be difficult because stress and anxiety are well known triggers for an increase in the pulse rate but combating it isn’t easy.
I know first hand about the effects that stress can have on the pulse rate. When my mother died suddenly Chris and I were away working in another state and were also under a bit of pressure at work. We were running a busy city hotel at the time which was quite stressful.
I started to notice that when I sat down after work and when I was in bed my pulse rate was galloping along. Naturally I worried about it which made things worse so I went to see a doctor.
He did a few tests and assured me that although my pulse rate was elevated it wasn’t too bad and I wouldn’t need medication. He suggested that because it had probably been brought on by stress I could lower it naturally with a few changes. Apart from my heart rate I was in good shape, very fit and not overweight.
He told me to cut down on alcohol and salt and reduce my stress level. Since my alcohol and salt intake was fairly low anyway I just cut it out altogether and made a big effort to relax more. After a while things got back to normal and I have been able to re-introduce wine and some salt back into my diet.
However I am very aware of the triggers that will cause my pulse rate to increase. I never drink coffee on an empty stomach and limit the amount to two cups a day. I avoid processed food because of the high salt and sugar content, eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and lead a relaxed lifestyle.
Not everyone’s triggers are the same, what sets one person off can have no effect on another. A friend of ours has to be very careful with red wine, more than one glass can send him straight to the emergency department.!!
Weight control and exercise are two important factors in helping to keep the pulse rate at a normal level. Walking is one of the best exercises, a brisk pace is good but find your level of comfort and maintain a steady rhythm.
Recent studies have shown that keeping on the move is the best way to maintain fitness. By this they mean move about more on a day to day basis especially if you have a job that involves a lot of office work, getting up and moving about at regular intervals can help to negate the effects of too much time sitting down.
I recently heard someone describe “Sitting” as the new smoking so I make it a point to get up and move about as often as possible. I also chivvy Chris into stepping away from the computer since he tends to get engrossed and forgets how long he has been sitting down.
Talking about maintaining a healthy lifestyle may get a bit tedious but keeping in shape is important if you want to avoid a high pulse rate at rest.