Last Updated on August 15, 2020 by Michael Brockbank
Your resting heart rate is the number of beats your heart performs per minute. A low number often signifies the strength of this muscle as it requires fewer pumps to circulate blood throughout the body. What can you do to get this number down from high levels?
The short answer: be more healthy. Kinda generic, but that’s what it really boils down to. The healthier you are overall, the less your heart has to work to keep you alive.
How to Check Your Heart Rate
Place your index and ring fingers on your neck next to your throat. Feel the pulse of your heart. Now, count how many beats you have for 15 seconds. Multiply this by four and you get your heart rate.
The reason why you count for 15 seconds is to give yourself an accurate average. A lot of things can slow or increase your rate, such as breathing slow. Counting for 15 seconds is a good way to average everything out.
Personally, I use a Fitbit Charge 2, which I found to be very accurate when monitoring by heart rate.
Caring About Your Resting Heart Rate
The amount of heart beats per minute, or BPM, tells a lot about a person. It can demonstrate internal issues and offer warnings of future problems, such as an attack or all-out failure. [note]http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/GettheFactsAboutHighBloodPressure/All-About-Heart-Rate-Pulse_UCM_438850_Article.jsp#.WvLxAIgvy9I[/note]
High numbers are also linked to obesity, stress and an inactive lifestyle. For example, mine could peak at 88 just by sitting at my desk all day writing and playing games.
It really scared me when it hit 0 back in 2016 because of my poor physical and mental condition.
A Good Number of BPM to Have
According to experts, people over the age of 10 should have a resting heart rate between 60 and 100. It’s common to see trained athletes reach as low as 40. [note]https://healthyforgood.heart.org/move-more/articles/target-heart-rates[/note]
I know one person at the age of 50 who has an average resting heart rate of around 39 who is in prime condition and is not a “trained athlete” according to some definitions. She does work out a lot and plays tennis, but she’s not a professional. In fact, she sits at her desk as much as I do while working.
The bottom line is you want to be closer to 60 to give yourself the best chances of survival. If you’re obese and pushing between 78 and 88, don’t assume you’re in a safe area. I was down to 78 after losing 20 pounds when my heart decided to stop.
A lot of things come into whether you’re safe between 60 and 100 BPM. For instance, I was incredibly lethargic and really didn’t do much outside of eating less. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help strengthen the heart, which is why I suffered a lot of problems.
What Can Influence your Resting Heart Rate?
Aside from poor health, there are several things that can influence your resting heart rate. Before you freak out because your pulse is higher than normal, consider that:
- Body temperature increases BPM. In fact, there’s a correlation between heated saunas elevating the heart rate, which often aids in weight loss. [note]https://www.menshealth.com/health/a19540942/sauna-heart-disease-deaths/[/note]
- Physical activity affects your heart rate. Obviously, any physical movement is going to increase how much blood your heart is pumping and will spike the numbers.
- Stress will influence the results. The more stressed you are, the faster your heart beats. I remember watching my Fitbit and seeing the chart of when my heart rate spiked as my brakes failed while crossing a busy intersection.
- Things you consume will impact your BPM. One of the purposes behind caffeine and other stimulant products is to increase your pulse, so don’t try to get a resting heart rate number after downing that venti Starbucks coffee.
Ways to Lower Your Resting Heart Rate
Reducing the resting heart rate isn’t going to be something that happens overnight in many cases. Some of us need to lose weight or strengthen the heart through exercise. However, some of you may find instant gratification just by relaxing more.
While it may take some time to lower your average resting BPM, the work is not really all that difficult. All it takes is a bit of effort and perhaps changing a few of your daily routines.
Reduce Your Stress Levels
Not everyone can live a stress-free life. Between family, career or even the loss of a loved one, your heart can stay elevated for all the wrong reasons. If you want to get it down to normal levels, you need to find a way to relax.
Exercise is a great way to lower your stress levels. In fact, a lot of therapists will prescribe workouts to deal with depression and anxiety. Part of this is because of the endorphins that are released during strenuous physical activity.
Meditating is a form of stress relief practiced by millions. It’s used for a variety of ailments ranging from pain management to coping with depression. It’s worth a try if your under intense pressure. [note]https://nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm[/note]
Omega-3 is a component found in a variety of foods, such as fish, that comes with a myriad of benefits. In this case, it helps ease stress. In fact, studies show how omega-3 supplements can reduce anxiety. [note]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21784145[/note]
Many foods are linked to reducing stress. Just make sure you eat some of these stress-relieving foods in moderation. Anything in excess can have problematic consequences in the human body.
Eating healthier is beneficial for the entire body, not just for reducing your resting heart rate. It impacts everything from emotions and how you process information in the brain to fighting off infections and illness.
Food can have a positive impact on your heart. For instance, you can eat:
Most people identify oranges with vitamin C and the immune system. However, it also helps mange cholesterol levels and reduce blood pressure. [note]https://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/news/20020322/orange-juice-for-heart#1[/note]
Almonds are useful in reducing LDL levels, the low-density lipoprotein cholesterol that leads to heart problems. By making it easier on the heart, it will beat less for the same amount of work. [note]https://www.rd.com/health/healthy-eating/almonds-lower-cholesterol/[/note]
- Dark Chocolate
Not all forms of chocolate are bad. In fact, dark chocolate is rich in iron and contributes to reducing blood pressure. [note]https://www.aarp.org/health/medical-research/info-03-2011/dark-chocolate-can-help-lower-your-blood-pressure.html[/note]
Not only is this a great topping for many foods, it also reduces blood pressure and plaque from the arteries. It has a menagerie of other health benefits such as preventing various cancers and atherosclerosis. [note]https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-300/garlic[/note]
- Red Wine
Red wine does a lot to boost the health of the heart and cardiovascular system in general. It raises healthy cholesterol levels while preventing damage to arteries. However, be mindful that too much alcohol can damage other parts of the body such as the liver. [note]https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/red-wine/art-20048281[/note]
Now, eating these foods may not immediately drop your heart rate, but they will make a positive impact over time. Don’t assume food is an instant fix for solving your heart problems.
Be More Physically Active
Evidence shows how a regular aerobic routine will significantly reduce your resting heart rate. This is really nothing new…it’s called “cardio” activity for a reason. The more often you can elevate your BPM, the stronger the heart becomes. [note]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4932052/[/note]
Like any muscle, the heart needs regular exercise to remain healthy. Just keeping you alive day after day isn’t good enough for most people. Eventually, it will stop when you least expect it if you live a sedentary lifestyle.
Personally, I’ve decreased my resting heart rate by nearly 20 beats by doing nothing more than increasing walks and playing the Xbox Kinect.
Swimming, walking, riding a bike or even doing yard work all helps strengthen the muscle in your chest.
Losing weight is a nice side effect of the above points. But in general, reducing your body mass will assist the heart and how it keeps you alive. Less mass and stronger pulses of blood mean a lower resting heart rate.
You don’t have to commit yourself to an exercise routine to lose weight, though. Many of you can lose weight just by reducing the amount of food you consume. Instead of a whole medium pizza for dinner, cut it back to two slices.
It’s all about balance between intake vs output. Don’t eat more than your body is going to use. If you need help, give MyFitnessPal a try. It’s a free app that has helped me lose nearly 70 pounds so far.
Your Resting Heart Rate is Important to Know
What goes on in your chest should be among the most important factors in your life. The odd things your heart does may be warning signals that you’re about to have a bad day. Make sure you keep an eye on what this muscle is doing. And never underestimate the value of working it out.
Fitness is more than just biceps, abs or a tight butt. Without the strength of your heart behind it, all the skeletal muscle in the world won’t stop your body from dropping dead due to a tachycardia.