You do not need to be an athlete to be interested in your heart rate. Knowledge about your heart rate could help you notice health problems and even track your fitness levels. Heart rate, also known as pulse, refers to the times your heart beats every minute. It is a key pointer to your heart health. Heart conditions or any other health problems could result in changes in heart rate. What affects heart rate? Here is a list of factors.

What Are the Factors that Affect Heart Rate?

The heart of a human being beats about 45 million times in a year. However, this varies depending on gender, age and the level of physical activity.

Your heart pumps the lowest amount of blood when you are not exercising, and this is referred to as your resting heart rate. Your heart beats between 60 and 100 times per minute when you are sitting or lying down, calm and relaxed and not sick. Sometimes your heart rate could go lower than 60 times a minute even without a medical issue. One such instance is if you are on a drug like a beta blocker. Very athletic people also experience a lower heart rate. This is because people who engage in a lot of physical activities have their heart muscles in a better condition so they need not strain to maintain a steady heartbeat. People who are moderately active usually maintain the normal resting pulse. Heart muscles for less active people have to work harder for body function maintenance, so it may be higher.

How Other Factors Affect Heart Rate

  • Air temperature- What affects heart rate? When there is an increase in temperatures (and humidity), the heart has to pump more blood leading to an increase in heart rate. As much has the heart beat increases, it never goes higher than 5 to 10 beats.

  • Positioning of the body- Your pulse is usually the same whether you are sitting, standing or resting. Your pulse may go up as you stand for about 15- 20 seconds, but it settles down after a few minutes.

  • Emotions- Your pulse is bound to rise when you are anxious, stressed or overly happy or sad.

  • Size of the body- Normally, your body size has no effect on heart rate. Obese people have a higher resting pulse rate, but it usually does not exceed 100.

  • Medication- Too much thyroid medication raises your heart rate while drugs that block adrenaline (beta blockers) slow down your pulse.

  • Dehydration- The body could be dehydrated due to exercising or staying for long periods without taking fluids. Whatever the case, dehydration causes blood to thicken and waste material to clog the bloodstream. Your heart will definitely have to work harder to rid your body of toxins and maintain the normal cardiac output.

  • Pressure- Are you thinking of what affects heart rate? Pressure is definitely one of them. Pressure exertion on your body’s special sensors (vagal stimulation) which occurs when you lift a heavy load, during labor or a bowel movement causes blood pressure to change. In response, the heart rate slows down.

  • Eating- Your heart rate increases after a meal to help with digestion. This is because more blood has to be pumped to the gastrointestinal tract for food processing. The heart rate rises for longer periods if larger amounts of food are consumed compared to snacking. Eating can cause the heart rate to go above 100 beats per minute!

  • Caffeine and other drugs- Caffeine, usually found in teas, sodas and coffee is a stimulant that works on the nervous system to raise the heart rate. It works the same way as adrenaline and other drugs including ephedrine and cocaine.

  • Terrain- Your heart rate will increase or decrease if you walk/run uphill or downhill respectively. Your heart rate will increase if you do not allow yourself to recover well from a run, a long hike or any other form of hard work out.

  • Breathing- The heart rate naturally slows down a bit when you breathe in.

  • Levels of glycogen – You tend to suffer fatigue when glycogen levels go down. At this time, the heart rate decreases because there is need to boost energy levels.

  • Insufficient nutrition causes your heart rate to rise.

  • Insufficient sleep leads to an increase in heart rate.

When to Be Concerned about Your Heart Rate

Your doctor will request you to keep track of your heart rate if you are put on a beta blocker to lower your heart rate, control your blood pressure or handle arrhythmia. Your heart rate log will help your doctor decide on whether to change your medication or adjust the dosage. You need to see a doctor if you have a very low pulse rate, or if you experience episodes of fast heart rates frequently. It is even more serious if it makes you feel dizzy weak or even faint. Your pulse tells a lot about your overall health.

Tips for a Healthier Heart

Here are some of the ways to deal with what affects heart rate:

Quit smoking

You have no option but to give up smoking. This is one of the best things that you can do for your heart. Smoking is one of the major causes of coronary heart disease. A year of not smoking lowers your risk to get a heart attack by half.


Be active

Start being active and maintain it to reduce the risk of heart disease. It will also boost your mood and help you deal with stress. Try to do at least 150 minutes of moderate – intensity aerobics per week. You can easily achieve this by doing 30 minutes daily for five days every week. Just fit it in somewhere in your daily schedule.


Monitor you weight

Overweight people are at a higher risk of heart disease. Ensure you have a healthy balanced diet. Take a lot of fruits and vegetables, less fat and sugar and engage in physical activity.


Take fiber-rich foods

A fiber-rich diet reduces your risk to suffer heart disease. Take at least 30g of fiber daily. Whole meal bread, oats, bran, unpeeled potatoes, wholegrain cereals fruits and vegetables are some of the foods rich in fiber.


Take less saturated fat

Foods rich in saturated fats should be taken in moderation since they raise cholesterol levels in the body, which in turn increase your risk of heart disease. Go for leaner meats and low-fat dairy.


Eat plenty of foods and vegetables

Make a point of eating at least five portions of mixed vegetables and fruits. They are great sources of minerals, vitamins and fiber. You can have them in different ways to break the monotony like adding fruit slices to cereals or adding them to your curries and pasta sauces.


Cut on the salt

Put less salt in your food; gradually you will get used to a point of cutting it out completely. Keep off ready foods that are high in salt since most of the salt your body requires is already in the food. The daily salt intake for adults should not exceed 6g, which is equivalent to a teaspoon.


Eat fish

Enjoy some fish at least twice a week. Remember to include some oily ones as well. Sardines, tuna, salmon and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fats that protect the body against heart disease. Pregnant and lactating women should not exceed two portions of oily fish per week.


Reduce alcohol intake

Alcohol contains calories. And drinking lots of it will definitely impact on your waistline! Try not to exceed the daily recommended uptake for a healthy heart.


Read food labels

Always confirm the amounts of calories, fats, salt and sugar a product contains before you buy it. This will help you fit it better in your diet choices and maintain a healthy lifestyle.


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