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# Is It Dangerous to Have Your Heart Rate at 170 When Running at Age 50?

by
Ollie Odebunmi
Ollie Odebunmi's involvement in fitness as a trainer and gym owner dates back to 1983. He published his first book on teenage fitness in December 2012. Odebunmi is a black belt in taekwondo and holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Kingston University in the United Kingdom.
Maintain a safe heart rate when running. Photo Credit Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images

Your heart rate while exercising is an indicator of the level of intensity and effort you are putting into the ongoing activity. A high heart rate verging on the maximum does present more risks and could be considered dangerous depending on a variety of factors. These include exercise tolerance, age, health and medical history. Always consult a doctor before trying a new exercise intensity or regimen.

## Calculations

The long-established equation for establishing maximum heart rate while exercising is to subtract your age from 220. For example, a 50-year-old man's maximum heart rate is 170. Research by Northwestern Medicine in Chicago indicates a new formula is more appropriate for calculating a woman's maximum heart rate. The formula is: subtract 88 percent of your age from 206. That gives a 50-year-old woman a maximum heart rate of 166.

## Guidelines

To improve your cardiovascular fitness by running, keep your heart rate between 65 and 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. This gives a 50-year-old man a target heart rate of 110 to 136. A 50-year-old woman should have a target hear rate of 108 to 133.

## Risk Factors

Exercising at a very high intensity, at a heart rate above 85 percent of maximum, increases your risk of cardiac events or heart problems, according to a 2002 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. According to this criteria, if you are a 50-year-old person maintaining a heart rate of 170 while running, you raise your risk for cardiac problems. The risks are further increased if you have a history of heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes, or if you use medication such as beta blockers.

## Considerations

There are doubts whether the 220 minus your age method of calculating your maximum heart rate is appropriate for older adults, according to a 2001 study published in the Journal of the American Journal of Cardiology. Lead study author H. Tanaka suggests an alternative equation: 208 minus your age multiplied by 0.7. This gives a 50-year-old person a maximum heart rate of 173. Whatever formula you might favor, seek the advice of your doctor before you start an exercise program and monitor your heart rate when running.

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