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What your heart rate says about your health

Your resting heart rate is a window to your wellbeing.

Your heart rate doesn’t just tell you that you’re nervous, or that your morning run was particularly vexing, it’s a window to your health – and it’s important to listen to it.

Measuring your resting heart rate is one of the easiest ways to gauge your health. Whether you’re using your fingers to find your pulse, a smartwatch or getting a doctor to check for you, the number of times your heart beats per minute can reveal how well your body is functioning on a whole.

Professor Ben Freedman, who is Director of External Affairs at Heart Research Institute as well as one of Australia’s leading researchers and cardiologists sat down with The Weekly to explain.

“Your heart rate in general is a measure of your level of fitness and wellness. So, if you’re fit and well, you don’t have a fever or you don’t have a flu, then you might have a lower resting heart rate,” explains Professor Ben Freedman.

Professor Freedman says that the ideal, healthy heart rate should sit at 80 beats per minute. This means that you get plenty of exercise and that your heart is generally in good form. 

If you’re extremely athletic, your resting heart rate may be as low as 55-60. On the other end of the spectrum, if your resting heart rate sits at 90 or above, you’ll need to look at incorporating some more exercise into your daily routine.

“Even just walking for short periods every day is a good way to get heart healthy,” Professor Freedman advises.

Professor Freedman also says that checking your pulse can also help you spot other health issues such as irregular heart rhythms like Atrial Fibrillation.

“One of the other things about feeling your pulse is that you can feel whether it’s in a normal, regular rhythm,” he says. “Like a clock, your heart beat should go ‘tick-tock-tick-tock’, if it’s not beating regularly, then you could have something wrong.”

If your heart beats in a regular rhythm, but it beats fast, then you’re most likely experiencing tachycardia – which just means a heartbeat higher than 100 beats per minute.

Sporty Woman Looking At Her Smart Watch

This is generally caused by things like anxiety, stress, fever, physical exertion, sickness or even medication side effects.

But it’s not just an abnormally high heart rate that can be concerning. On the other end of the spectrum, an unnaturally low heart rate should also be investigated.

Whilst an athlete’s heart rate sits at 60 beats per minute, a heart rate lower than 60 is called bradycardia. This is where your heart beats less than 60 times per minute. 

Traditionally, getting a heart problem diagnosed by a doctor has been a tricky process. It can be tough to prove and to be believed. However, with an abundance of devices from Apple Watches to handheld ECG monitors, you can capture heart anomalies and easily show them to your regular doctor.

“I think the ability to catch heart symptoms with consumer devices is great and can definitely determine whether there are heart issues present or not. The traditional 24 hour holter monitor is also good, but it might not capture symptoms in that short window of time,” Professor Freedman says.

With the ability to monitor our heart rates 24/7 nowadays, don’t just wait for your GP visit to check in on where your heart rate is.

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