What Your Heart Rate Reveals About Your Health

By: Alyssa Miller | Published: Jan 23, 2024

Your heart rate can tell you a lot about your health. If you count your resting heat beats per minute and land somewhere between 60 and 100 bpm, then you are living a pretty average, healthy life. If that isn’t the case, you might want to keep reading.

What does it mean if your heart rate is above or below the range? Here is what your heart beats a minute can say about your health.

A Brief History of the Hearts Connection to Health

Your heart rate and health have been connected for centuries. According to Britannica, Herophilus of Alexandria, also known as the Father of Anatomy, created a clock to time the pulse. Centuries later, Roman Greek surgeon, Galen, pushed anatomy forward by watching deceased gladiators’ hearts beat their last beats.

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“Exercise to begin with–and so long as it is practiced in moderation–renders the pulse vigorous large, quick, and frequent,” Galen wrote, according to the Guardian. “Large amounts of exercise, which exceed the capacity of the individual, make it small, faint, quick and extremely frequent.”

What Effects Your Heart Rate?

The precise understanding of the link between heart beats and health has evolved greatly over time, with modern physicians and scientists working hard in every way possible to track the variations of human health based on our hearts.

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So, what does your current heart rate reveal about the influences–like genetics, lifestyle, and emotional state–have to say about your health?

Foods, Drinks, and Bad Habits Affect Your Heart Rate

Many aspects of life can affect your heart rate. That sweet morning brew you can’t get enough of can dramatically change your heart’s bpm. Dr. Elijah Behr, the consultant cardiologist at London’s Mayo Clinic, tells the Guardian that caffeine and nicotine in cigarettes can increase the speed at which your heart beats.

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Depending on how much you drink, alcohol can either increase or decrease your heart bpm, but can impact the heart muscle, leading to a great effect on your overall heart health.

Emotions and Exercise Can Have Big Effects on Your Hearts

Emotions can also do a number on your heart rate. Stress, anxiety, or excitement can cause a short-term spike in your heart’s bpm. However, chronic stress can contribute to long-term irregularities.

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Your heart rate will increase as you exercise. Cardiovascular exercise and yoga can lower your resting heart rate over time, according to a recent meta-analysis.

What Your Resting Heart Rate Means

The resting heart-rate figure of 60 to 100 bpm reveals a “healthy range can vary depending on factors like age, gender, fitness level and overall health,” says Dr. David Culpepper, a family medicine specialist with LifeMD, (via the Guardian).

Doctor in White Lab Coat Examining Girl's Heart Rate

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Dr. Culpepper continues: “Athletes and people who are very fit may have resting heart rates below 60 bpm, while babies and young children can often have heart rates above 100 bpm, which gradually decrease as they get older.”


What If Your Heart Rate Is Low? 

If you are wondering why your heart rate is below 60 bmp and you don’t have athlete-level fitness, then you might have bradycardia. Bradycardia is a slower-than-normal heart bpm, which Dr. Culpepper says can be caused by the heart’s electrical system, an under active thyroid, or other m medical conditions.

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“Also, some medications–particularly those used to treat high blood pressure and certain heart conditions–can lower heart rate as a side-effect,” Dr. Culpepper adds.


What If Your Heart Is Beating Fast?

If your heart is beating pretty fast and you are not under any particular pressure, then there might be cause for concern. “If it comes out of the blue, with no apparent reason, then it can be due to an underlying heart condition, and needs to be investigated,” says Dr. Behr.

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The chance for dizziness or a blackout to occur is high when your heart is racing.


How to Improve Your Heart Rate

Studies are starting to reveal the negative effects of certain stressors in life, like alcohol or nicotine intake. Monitoring your heart’s bpm and reporting abnormalities to your doctor could help spot upcoming illnesses in advance.

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Drinking water, exercising, and improving your sleep quality can lead to overall improvements in your internal and external health.


Is the Finite Heartbeat Theory Real?

The finite heartbeat theory is a folk belief that suggests each person has a predetermined number of heat beats throughout their lifetime. Once the heartbeats have been used up, the person dies.

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Unfortunately–or perhaps fortunately–this is just a folk belief that is not supported by scientific theory. So don’t worry about using up all your heartbeats the next time you get excited.


Another Way to Monitor Your Heart’s Health

Exercising can also improve your heart rate recovery (HRR), which is the rate at which your heart is beating returns to its resting pace after you stop moving. A recent review of studies done monitoring HRR reveals that this is a good indicator of overall heart health.

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To put it simply: the faster your heart returns to its resting bpm, the better.


Why You Should Monitor Your Heart’s Health

Your heart’s health is something to care for. It is the muscle that keeps us alive, so don’t take it for granted. Prioritizing your heart is essential for your physical and mental well-being and overall quality of life.

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There are many ways to improve your health and prevent a range of potential illnesses. Monitoring your heart’s bpm can also help you catch those illnesses early on.