Digiswitch | Wearable Tech for the Quantified Self

How to Lower Your Resting Heart Rate For Better Health

image of heart next to medical devices

Remember the last time you put two fingers on your wrist to feel the pulse? Counting heartbeats has always been a fun activity in PE classes. Nowadays, we can use a wearable tracker to get a more accurate reading. But the idea is the same: heartbeat per minute holds the key to assess our physical well being.

The important thing here is to measure your heart rate while in a relaxed state. Known as resting heart rate (or RHR for short), it informs us of our cardiovascular health when considered in conjunction with other indicators, such as cholesterol level and blood pressure.

To know what’s healthy, we need to know the right numbers to watch out for. Doctors tell us that a lower RHR is essentially healthier, as shown in athletes and other extremely fit people. A lower RHR also helps reduce stress and prevent health problems. So how can we achieve a lower resting heart rate for better health?

That’s what we aim to find out in this article. With the right lifestyle choices and the help of wearable tech gadgets, you can work your way to a healthier heart.

What is a Healthy Resting Heart Rate?

First off, we need to know what is considered a normal heart rate when it comes to measuring RHR. Heart rate varies from person to person. Even with the same person, the RHR can change based on contexts: different exercise routines, sleep patterns, diet, pregnancy…etc.

But there is a range that’s considered a “normal” heart rate range. Health experts tell us that a normal resting heart rate for adults “ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute”.

A low resting heart rate below 60 isn’t necessarily unhealthy. It can be the result of certain medication such as taking beta blocker for high blood pressure. For athletes and people who exercise regularly, a low heart rate is a sign of health. But for those who don’t exercise and experience extended low RHR, it can imply heart diseases such as Hypothyroidism or Myocarditis.

photo of doctor explaining health health to patient

On the other hand, for an adult to have a fast heart rate of over 100 beats per minute is a condition called “tachycardia”. There are many types of tachycardia and they can be temporary. But if you experience extended fast heart rhythm, chances are you have a medical condition. Research has found direct linkage between a high RHR and risk of premature death and heart failure, especially for RHR between 81 and 90.

All in all, a lower heart rate is said to indicate “a higher degree of physical fitness” – it helps reduce the risk of heart disease such as heart attacks even early deaths. So, how can we improve our overall health by tackling a high resting heart rate?

First, we need to identify what causes it.

What Causes the Heart Rate to Rise?

Many different factors can contribute to the raising of an average heart rate. Some possible causes include:

Age

Emotional turmoil has a way of working its way to our beating heart. When stress hormone is triggered, it signals the brain area that regulates heart functions and pressure.

According to medical research, people who suffer from anxiety disorder tend to have higher rates of heart attack and other cardiac events.

Sleep Deprivation

Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can cause the worsening of your standard heart rate. Oftentimes we think that lack of sleep only affects our capacity to stay awake. Unfortunately, it can have a lot of adverse effects on the body.

image of snoozing an alarm clock after sleep

Lack of Exercise

Some medications can cause your heart rate to rise. Be aware of the side effects of antidepressants and blood pressure drugs.

Anxiety or Stress

Emotional turmoil has a way of working its way to our beating heart. When stress hormone is triggered, it signals the brain area that regulate heart functions and pressure.

According to medical research, people who suffer from anxiety disorder tend to have higher rates of heart attack and other cardiac events.

Side Effects From Medication

Some medications can cause your heart rate to rise. Be aware of side effects of antidepressants and blood pressure drugs.

Heavy Caffeine or Alcohol Consumption

Familiar with the buzzy feeling after a few espresso shots or a pre-dinner cocktail? Both caffeine and alcohol can cause a sudden spike in heart rate and blood pressure.

Caffeine can raise your blood level of epinephrine which can increase blood pressure and contractility of the heart. This study also suggests that alcohol is responsible for triggering rapid increase in rapid heartbeat, medically known supraventricular tachycardia (SVT).

Cigarette Smoking

Similar to caffeine and alcohol, nicotine as a stimulant causes our body to produce more adrenaline, which makes our heart beat faster.

For example, nicotine constricts blood vessels, which lead to damages to heart muscles. Your blood pressure increases, which in return makes your heart work harder. The British Heart Foundation warns us that smokers are twice like to have heart attacks than non-smokers.

6 Ways to Decrease Your Resting Heart Rate

Exercise More

photo of men and woman exercising

Many studies have pointed to exercise as having a” favorable effect on many of the established risk factors for cardiovascular disease”. In particular, strengthening, stretching, balance, and aerobic exercises are the most beneficial for heart health. Even moderate exercises can get you 50% to 70% closer to your target heart rate.

You don’t need to hit the gym every day to keep up with an active lifestyle. From regular jogging to at-home pilates to walking up a few flights of stairs, physical activity takes many forms. One of the most effective exercise to train your cardiovascular system is probably Interval Training, alternating high-intensity training with short periods of rest. Make sure to follow tailored exercises in line your fitness level, insteading of what’s trending at the moment.

The key metric to watch out for when exercising is your maximum heart rate as oppose to heart rate variability (variation between beats). The American Heart Association has a helpful resource to determine your maximum heart rate, which works out to be 220 minus your age. Use this metric to guide your workout intensity: if your heart rate is low or moderate, push yourself harder for better results. If it’s too high, slow down to avoid straining your heart muscles.

A Heart-Healthy diet

The two main pillars of a healthy heart are regular exercise and a nutritious diet that doesn’t allow for gorging on fast food. Studies have shown that green leafy vegetables are able to ‘reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease through favorable changes in cardiac autonomic function.’ The other things to avoid are foods that are high in sugar and high in saturated fats too.

Want to find a watch that can help you to monitor your heart rate? Check out the Blocks smartwatch in this list, it comes with a removable module that allows you to monitor your heart rate easily. Many fitness trackers come with heart-rate monitors to help you stay on top of your heart health. Here are a few tips on how to find the right fitness tracker.

Reduce Long Term Stress

image of woman practicing yoga

Our heart is the first to respond to external pressure. Whether it’s fight or flight, an increase in your adrenaline level will send your heart racing. To maintain a healthy heart, remember to relax.

Research has established the strong connection between breathing and heart rate control. Meditation can be a great way of calming any heart palpitations.

The good news is that for those new to breathing and meditation practices, wearable tech can help you relax. Many fitness trackers such as the Fitbit Charge 2 offers guided breathing, as well as continuously monitors your heart rate throughout the day.

Limit Stimulant Intake

Stimulants that may seem to be accomplices of your working out and lifestyle are often enemies. The reason for this is that the speed and slow the body’s functions artificially. Take caffeine for instance. You might not realize that excessive caffeine in your body has a significant effect on your heart rate. Same for nicotine in tobacco products. Smokers tend to have a higher resting heart rate.

Stimulants also cause dehydration, which makes your heart work harder to stabilize blood flow. Drink sugar and caffeine-free fluids such as water and herbal tea instead to hydrate your body and decrease your heart’s workload.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

image of woman holding healthy salad while weighing herself

So much of the public think of dieting as a no-holds-barred race to the smallest weight possible, only to let yourself go again after you feel a bit better. This is not the case at all. Dieting is about implementing a steady and efficient method of and eating.

This is often achieved by regular portioning, 5 fruit and vegetables a day and making sure not to skip any meals. Skipping meals may sound like a way of slimming down, but it puts your body into a confused state. Remember, maintaining a diet is as important as the healthy content within the diet.

Sleep Well

As we’ve already mentioned, sleeping well is an amazing way of maintaining an average heart rate. Sleeping small amounts in bursts can cause underlying health issues to occur.

The other thing that is great about sleeping well is it helps with every other aspect of the plan. A good sleep will help you clear your mind, organise your diet and plan a bit of exercise as well.

The Bottom Line

Maintaining a good resting heart rate is imperative when it comes to your cardio health. Check your heart rate early and often to prevent unforeseen cardiac events. Doctors recommend that we check RHR at least a few times a week at different times of the day.

The old fashioned method to check your RHR is by lightly pressing your index and middle fingers on your wrist or neck, and count the number of beats for 15 seconds or 30 seconds to get a reading.

Now with the help of wearables such as fitness trackers and smartwatches with built-in sensors, we can monitor our RHR throughout the day. Standalone smart watches, for example, are great to continuous heart rate tracking since they don’t need to pair with your phone to work.

photo of man checking heart rate on his smartwatch

Fitness trackers such as Fitbit or Polar watches comes with wrist sensors to track your movements and heart rate. But for a more accurate reading, you could invest in a chest strap such as ANT+.

Whichever method you choose, it takes commitment to stick to a healthy lifestyle and exercise regime. After all, that’s the only path towards a healthy heart.

Related posts

How to Choose A Fitness Tracker in 2019 – A Buyer’s Guide

Adeel Hashmi

From Smart Notification to Fitness Coaching: 9 Unique Advantages of Wearing a Smartwatch

Jean Whitehead

The Rise of DIY Smartwatches and How to Build Your Own

Liam Murphy

Leave a Comment