What is heart rate and how is it measured? Our heart is a vital organ whose function is to pump the blood that circulates through arteries, veins and capillaries, carrying oxygen to every cell in our body. It is a powerful muscle that performs, with each beat, a movement of contraction and relaxation , thus driving blood through the circulatory system. As explained by the Spanish Heart Foundation, the heart rate is the number of times that the heart performs this contraction movement during one minute, that is, it is the beats per minute.
To maintain cardiovascular health, these beats must be made at a certain pressure and frequency, although, as we have indicated, the frequency can vary depending on various factors. The normal heart rate at rest ranges between 50 – 60 and 100 beats per minute, although with differences according to the physiological characteristics of each person.
Measuring and controlling the pulsations is not complicated and is of vital importance, especially in hypertensive people or those who suffer from a heart condition. Although you currently have devices (activity bracelets and watches) that easily measure heart rate, it is something that you can also do. You just have to detect some point of the body where the pulsations are detected. The inside of the wrist and the lateral area of the neck , under the jaw, are two where you can see them more clearly. It is enough to press lightly with two fingers (index and middle) and count the pulses that occur during a minute.
Learn more about this topic by reading our articles What are the types of heart rate and How is the heart rate measured .
Normal heart rate at rest by age in women
At birth, men and women have an elevated heart rate. It is totally normal and as we grow older it decreases until it stabilizes in adulthood, around the age of 20. In general, the heart rate of women is slightly higher than that of men.
- Between the ages of 20 and 29, the normal resting rate would be between 78 – 94 beats per minute.
- In the following decade, from 29 to 39 years old, 80 – 96 beats per minute (bpm) is considered normal
- From this age and up to 49 years, normal is between 80 – 98 (ppm).
- Over the age of 50, 84 – 102 ppm would be considered within normal healthy limits.
A heart rate of between 70 – 80 per minute is the average that a woman should have in normal resting conditions.
Normal heart rate at rest by age in men
In the case of men, the beats per minute are somewhat lower than in women.
- The youngest, from 20 to 29 years old, the resting pulse can range between 70 and 84 bpm, although a somewhat lower heart rate ( between 62 – 68 bpm ) is considered ideal.
- As age increases, pulse rates usually experience a slight increase: 74-84 bpm in men aged 30-39, 74-88 in those aged 40-49 and 76-88 in those over 50.
It must be insisted that in any case it is approximate data that, in addition, can vary during the course of the same day and always depending on the physical characteristics of each person. Even so, they are a reference of the approximate values of the normal pulsations at rest .
A rate that is too high could indicate tachycardia and if, on the contrary, it is excessively low, it would be called bradycardia . In case of any doubt, about whether our pulsations are adequate, consultation with the cardiologist is important.
Normal heart rate at rest in athletes
Physical activity, especially if it is intense, requires an extra effort to pump the heart and it is completely normal for the heartbeat to accelerate when doing sports.
Unless there is a medical contraindication, aerobic exercise (swimming, running, cycling…), adapted to the abilities of each person, is an ally of cardiovascular health and also a great workout for the heart. At the time of exertion, an athlete's heart rate rises significantly and, once it's over, they gradually return to their normal rhythm. Here you can learn some tips on How to control your heart rate when running .
Already at rest, the heart of an athlete can be below what is considered normal ( less than 50 ppm ) and as a general average it is usually around 60 ppm . The reason that athletes have a low heart rate at rest lies in the training that exercise involves. The heart ‘learns' that it does not need to pump blood at high speed when the body is not facing a physical challenge.
How to lower resting heart rate
Controlling the rhythm of the heartbeat is not easy and in any worrying situation, you must go to the doctor immediately. There are also specific treatments and medications to lower the pulsations if necessary, which can only be indicated by a specialist.
Even so, reducing the number of pulses at rest is possible by resorting to moderate exercise . Excessively sedentary life can be the cause of a high heart rate, which can be lowered in a few weeks by doing some regular aerobic exercise.