The American Heart Association considers between 60 and 100 to be a normal resting pulse rate for an adult woman. This means that her heart should beat between 60 and 100 times per minute when she is sitting or lying in a calm and relaxed state. A pulse rate that falls slightly above or below this range does not necessarily signal trouble, but a resting rate that is consistently very high or low should prompt a medical check-up, especially if symptoms are present.
Determining Your Resting Pulse Rate
The pulse can be located in areas where arteries pass close to the skin. Convenient locations to take your own pulse are on the palm side of the wrist, near the base of the thumb or on the front of the neck just to the side of the Adam's apple. Use the tips of your index and middle fingers to feel for the pulse. Once located, count the number of beats for one minute, or, count the beats for 30 seconds and multiply by two to determine your pulse rate. Medline Plus recommends relaxing for at least 10 full minutes before counting to determine a true resting pulse rate.
Elevated Pulse Rate
Tachycardia, the medical term for a resting pulse rate above 100, may arise secondary to a number of underlying medical conditions ranging from anemia to a damaged heart valve. In an otherwise healthy person, tachycardia may suggest nothing more serious than mild anxiety or fatigue. Lifestyle factors contributing to tachycardia include smoking, inadequate exercise, insufficient sleep, too much coffee or alcohol.
Reduced Pulse Rate
In a healthy active woman, bradycardia, a resting pulse rate below 60, may be a consequence of her excellent cardiovascular fitness. A strong and healthy heart need not beat as rapidly to pump the same volume of blood as the heart of a less fit woman. In a woman who is not active and physically fit, bradycardia might point to an underlying condition such as sleep apnea, low thyroid or a problem in the electrical conduction system of the heart. Certain medications, including those commonly prescribed for high blood pressure, can also cause bradycardia.
When to Seek Help
Whether the resting pulse rate is consistently elevated or reduced, a medical examination may be necessary to identify the underlying cause. This is especially true if symptoms are present. Dizziness, light-headedness, an irregular rhythm, heart flutters or palpitations, chest pains or shortness of breath are, according to the American Heart Association, symptoms that should prompt medical follow-up, especially for the woman whose resting pulse rate falls outside the normal range of 60 to 100.