While your heart rate varies depending on your activity, keeping your heart rate within a healthy range may increase your life span. Resting heart rate seems to be a common denominator for various types of heart disease, so lowering your heart rate to the recommended range may decrease your risk of developing heart disease. Many factors affect heart rate, so lowering yours involves changing multiple lifestyle factors.
Exercising may seem counter-intuitive to lowering heart rate, but over time, regular exercise gradually slows down your resting heart rate by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system and lowering beats per minute. Since a normal resting heart rate ranges between 60-100 beats per minute, aim for a pulse in that range to ensure that your heart does not have excessive stress on a daily basis. While incorporating any type of exercise lowers your resting heart rate, studies demonstrate a greater impact through interval, aerobic and resistance exercises. Interval training in swimmers demonstrated a significant difference in heart rate, with maximum dynamic exercise lowering heart rate significantly so incorporating interval training into a lower-impact workout may be beneficial. Additionally, participating in regular aerobic exercise such as jogging, running or biking often results in decreasing your resting heart rate by an estimated five to 25 beats per minute. Finally, resistance training demonstrated up to an 11% decrease in resting heart rate. Participating in these three types of exercise, if possible, benefits and lowers your heart beats per minute while at rest. In contrast, lower intensity exercise such as walking may have some effect on lowering heart rate, but does not show the same extent at lowering resting heart rate.
Stress causes a higher heart rate on a regular basis, increases inflammation in the body, and causes other secondary health problems. Although you may have multiple sources of stress present in your life, managing your stress response lowers heart rate over time. Performing relaxation exercises, taking part in meditation or tai chi and using other stress-reducing techniques can all be strategies used to lower your resting heart rate. Keep in mind that reducing lifestyle or work-related stress may be a long process.
Smoking and tobacco use of any kind increases your resting heart rate. If you don't currently smoke, avoid taking up smoking or any type of smoking-like activity. If you do currently smoke, try to give up tobacco products which is an effective strategy to lower your heart rate. Since smoking cessation is not an overnight process for many people, work toward lowering your heart rate by cutting back on smoking and giving up this habit gradually. Although complete cessation is highly recommended, lowering your tobacco usage also benefits your heart.
Achieve and Maintain Healthy Weight
When you are overweight, your heart has to work at a faster pace to supply blood and nutrients to your entire body. When you lose weight, your heart can pump at a slower rate and is less stressed on a daily basis. Changing your diet to encourage weight loss and maintaining a healthy BMI of 18.5-24.9 either lowers or keeps your heart rate low. If you are already a healthy weight, maintaining that weight over time and avoiding weight gain lowers your risk of your resting heart rate becoming elevated.
Is This an Emergency?
- Harvard Health Publications: Slower Heart Rate May Translate Into Longer Life
- American Heart Association: All About Heart Rate
- Harvard Health Publications: Increase in Resting Heart Rate is a Signal Worth Watching
- British Medical Journal: High Heart Rate at Rest Signals Higher Risk of Death even in Fit Healthy People
- American Journal of Epidemiology: Effects of Moderate and Vigorous Physical Activity on Heart Rate Variability in a British Study of Civil Servants
- University of New Mexico: Aerobics vs. Resistance Training
- Journal of Sports Medicine: Effect of Endurance Exercise on Autonomic Control of Heart Rate