Understanding your resting heart rate

Learn how to measure your resting heart rate, what is normal, and what might be considered irregular.
04 Jan, 2023 • 2 minutes to read
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Your resting heart rate (RHR) is an average measure of how many times your heart beats per minute (bpm) when your body is at rest. Knowing your RHR can be a useful indicator to help you gauge your general health and fitness. Follow the below guides to help you measure your RHR and understand the results.

How do I measure my resting heart rate?

1. Sit or lay comfortably & breathe for 5-10 minutes. 2. Find your pulse inside your wrist or neck (near your windpipe). 3. Count how many times your heart beats during one minute (using a timer on your phone might be the easiest option). Repeat over several days and take an average.

Palpitations and atrial fibrillation

Palpitations are when your heartbeat becomes more noticeable. You may feel as if your heart is beating more strongly, perhaps it might feel irregular or like it’s missing a beat. It’s important to remember that palpitations are a symptom rather than a diagnosis, and often don’t indicate a health problem - they can be caused by many everyday things such as stress or exercise. However, a feeling of an irregular heartbeat should always be checked with your GP or health professional, as it could be a symptom of an underlying condition such as atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is an abnormal heart rhythm, or arrythmia, which happens when the top two chambers of the heart, known as the atria, quiver or twitch. If this happens to you, it may feel like your heart is fluttering or beating irregularly (palpitations). AF is the most commonly diagnosed arrhythmia, and can come and go (known as paroxysmal AF) or it can be persistent and more long lasting. Whilst AF can be asymptomatic, typical symptoms include tiredness, shortness of breath, light headedness, and chest pain. One of the complications of AF is the increased chance of blood clots forming, which in turn increases the risk of a having a stroke.

Abnormal heart rhythms can be detected using electrocardiograms (ECGs). For paroxysmal AF, you might need a longer period of monitoring to capture the abnormality when it happens and there are portable and wearable devices that can do this.

What is a normal resting heart rate?

A normal heart rate is 78. Thumbs up: 60-100 bpm. Normal resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 bpm. Normal is different for everyone due to age, health and lifestyle. Thumbs down: Below 60 bpm. Slow heart rate (bradycardia). A heart rate below 60 bpm may be normal for athletes or those in peak condition. Thumbs down: Over 100 bpm. Fast heart rate (tachycardia). A rapid heart rate may be your body's response to conditions such as fright or stress.

Bradycardia and Tachycardia

Bradycardia is a heart rate that's slower than normal (below 60 bpm). Sometimes bradycardia doesn't cause symptoms or complications and can be entirely normal for some people, including people in good physical condition. However, it can become serious if the heart is unable to pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the body. If this is the case, it may cause symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, and shortness of breath.

Tachycardia is a heart rate that's faster than normal (above 100 bpm). Like bradycardia, sometimes tachycardia doesn’t cause any symptoms or complications, and can be entirely normal for some people. For instance, the heart rate typically rises during exercise, or as a response to stress. However, tachycardia may be an indicator of an abnormal heart rhythm, and if left untreated, some forms of tachycardia can lead to serious health problems or be a threat to life.

Symptoms and causes for both tachycardia and bradycardia may vary. However, if you have a concern, please make sure you contact your healthcare professional.

Sources expand_more
  1. British Heart Foundation - www.bhf.org.uk
  2. American Heart Association - www.heart.org 

This information was published by Bupa Global's Content Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals and deemed accurate on the date of review.

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