Learn to really understand and listen to your heart. By Dawn Chen
Photo: ammentorp / www.123rf.com
Throughout the day, your heart beats vary depending on the situation and what you’re doing. It might be slow and steady when you’re chilling out at home, before suddenly shooting up if you decide to do jump squats. Your heart rate even changes from minute to minute and is often a good indicator of cardiovascular health. Tune in to your body and listen to your heart for a healthier you! (Also Read: 8 Ways to Keep Your Heart Healthy)
What is it?
Your heart rate refers to the number of times your heart beats per minute. It is affected by multiple things like your age, gender, caffeine intake and fitness level. Women tend to have a higher resting heart rate than men.
You can calculate your resting heart rate by measuring your pulse. Place two fingers on the inside of your wrist and count the number of beats for 15 seconds. Then, multiply by four to get your score. If you have a fitness tracker that can measure heart rate, you can refer to that as well. It’s best to take your heart rate when you’ve just woken up and before you get out of bed.
Keep it low
The normal resting heart rate for adults ranges between 65 and 85 beats per minute. Generally, the lower your resting heart rate, the better. This usually means that your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood throughout your body. Someone who is physically very fit – like an athlete – may even have a resting heart rate of 40 to 60 beats per minute.
Different heart rate zones
Your heart rate naturally speeds up and slows down depending on what you’re doing. When exercising, your heart works harder to pump blood throughout your body in order to cope with the physical strain of what you’re doing. Depending on the exertion, your heart rate may soar and hover between 60 to 80 (or even 90!) per cent of your maximum heart rate.
When you’re just easing into a new workout regime after being ineffective for a long time, go slow and aim to stay around 70 per cent of your maximum heart rate.
There is a limit
While your heart is a strong muscle, it has its limits too. This formula from the Singapore Heart Foundation is a quick gauge to find out what your maximum heart rate is:
Heart Rate Maximum (HRmax) = (220 - Age) beats per minute
Slow things down
Don’t worry if your resting heart rate is a little higher than usual. You can bring it down with certain lifestyles swaps. For starters, get active! The Health Promotion Board recommends clocking at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week to reduce your risk of chronic diseases and improve heart health. Keep to a healthy weight and try different stress management techniques to relax if you’re always high strung.
A consistently high resting heart rate (think nearing 100 beats a minute even though you’re doing nothing) may be cause for concern. This is especially so if it’s accompanied by other symptoms like giddiness or shortness of breath. See your doctor to rule out any underlying issues like a thyroid disorder or arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).