Here’s what you need to know about your heart rate for optimal health.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Here’s what you need to know about your heart rate for optimal health. 

<b>PHOTO</b> 123RF.COM
<b>PHOTO</b> 123RF.COM

Throughout the day, your heart rate or beat speeds up and slows down, depending on what you’re doing and how you’re feeling. It will probably be steady when you’re chilling out at home, and then shoot up if you decide to work out. 

How do I measure my heart rate?

It’s best to take your heart rate when you’ve just woken up and before you get out of bed. Calculate your resting heart rate by measuring your pulse. Place two fingers on the inside of your wrist and count the number of beats for 15 seconds. 

Now multiply that by four to get your score. If you have a fitness tracker that can do the job, you can refer to that as well. If you don’t have one, check our fitness tracker recommendations opposite. The normal resting heart rate for adults ranges between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Women tend to have a higher resting heart rate than men but, generally, the lower your resting heart rate, the better. 

This usually means your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood throughout your body. Someone who is physically very fit – like an athlete – may even have a resting heart rate of 40 to 60 beats per minute. 

According to a Singapore Heart Foundation formula, you can determine your maximum heart rate by deducting your age from 220. So, if you’re 30, your maximum heart rate should be around 190. 

Why does it matter so much?

Your heart rate is one of the key indicators of cardiovascular health. It shows how hard your heart is working at any given time, and factors like your age, gender, caffeine intake and fitness level can affect it. 

When exercising, it naturally works harder to pump blood throughout your body to cope with the physical strain. Tracking your heart rate is about the smartest thing you can do to ensure that you’re training at your ideal intensity. 

For instance, if you’re gunning for fat burn, your heart rate during exercise should hover at 60 to 70 per cent of your maximum heart rate (MHR). Those are also the magic numbers for when you’re just easing into a new workout regimen after being sedentary for a long time. However, if you’re looking to improve endurance or efficiency, you should be training at 80 to 90 per cent of your MHR. 

What if my heart rate is higher than usual?

Don’t worry. You can bring it down with certain lifestyle changes. For starters, get active! The Health Promotion Board recommends clocking at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week to reduce your risk of chronic diseases and improve heart health. Keep to a healthy weight and try different stress management techniques to relax if you’re always highly strung.  

A consistently high resting heart rate (over 100 beats a minute even when you’re doing nothing) may be cause for concern. This is especially so if it’s accompanied by other symptoms like giddiness or shortness of breath. When this happens, see your doctor to rule out underlying issues like a thyroid disorder or arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).