What does your heart rate say about you?
February is National Heart Month, so we’re challenging our customers to check their resting heart rate and see where that places them on our “beats per minute” chart.
As well as checking your resting heart rate, there are several other ways to give yourself a “Heart MOT” and review your overall heart health which we will walk you through below, including:
- Checking your blood pressure
- Figuring out your Body Mass Index (BMI)
- Taking a cholesterol test
- Checking your oxygen saturation levels
- Getting an ECG of your heart rate
- Testing your blood glucose levels
- Having a full NHS Health Check
Is your heart rate “athletic”?
Our resting heart rate chart below is based on the average beats per minute for men and women. To see where your heart rate places on our chart you’ll need to find your pulse in your wrist or neck. Once you’ve found your pulse, set a timer for 15 seconds and count how many times your heart beats within this timeframe. Multiply this number by 4 to get your beats per minute, then see where you place on our resting heart rate chart.
Could your resting heart rate be better?
If you’ve taken our resting heart rate challenge and found your “beats per minute” to be more than you’d like, there are ways to improve your heart rate and overall heart health.
Increasing the amount of exercise you do every day can gradually slow down your resting heart rate, but if you’re not used to exercising it’s important to be realistic about the amount of movement you can manage daily. Using a piece of equipment such as a Pedal Exerciser can be a great way to build up your fitness slowly as it is designed to be low impact and has adjustable levels of resistance, enabling you to progress at your own pace.
BMI, cholesterol and blood pressure checks
If you are doing little to no exercise over a prolonged period of time, you may find that you start to put on weight. Being overweight or obese can push your resting heart rate higher and have a serious effect on your overall heart health.
Your Body Mass Index (BMI) can give you an indication of whether you are classed as Underweight, Healthy, Overweight or Obese, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). To discover your BMI, you will need to know your weight and height. However, we would caution that the BMI scale does not take into account muscle mass and other variables which is something to bear in mind when looking at your result.
If you’ve found that your resting heart rate is higher than you expected, and your BMI suggests you are overweight or obese, it may be beneficial for you to take a cholesterol test. Having a high cholesterol level can increase the risk of fatty deposits developing in your blood vessels, which can make it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries. This means the heart has to work harder to ensure blood can be circulated around your body, which may increase your resting heart rate – as well as your blood pressure.
You can be tested for high cholesterol at any local GP clinic or health centre and anyone can request a cholesterol test from their nurse or doctor at any time – regardless of age. It’s likely you’ll be asked to fast before your blood test (no food, drink or medications for 9-12 hours) so that the amount of “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides in your body are not affected in your results. The test is quick and simple; a nurse or doctor will prick your finger or use a needle and syringe to take a small sample of blood from your body, before explaining the results to you.
- If you’re between the ages of 40 and 75, you should be having your cholesterol tested every 5 years
- If you have high cholesterol already, you should be going for check-ups more often, as indicated by your nurse or doctor
- If you’re on medication that affects (raises or lowers) your cholesterol, you should have your cholesterol tested about every 12 months
As we mention above, high cholesterol can not only impact your resting heart rate, it also increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. ‘Blood pressure’ is a term used to describe the measurement of how hard and fast your heart is pumping blood around your body. If your blood pressure is too high, it can cause damage to the delicate linings of your arteries, which may lead to serious health complications such as heart disease or stroke.
You can have your blood pressure checked at your local doctor’s surgery or, if you need to check your blood pressure on a regular basis, it may be worth buying an Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor to use in the comfort of your own home.
What is the NHS Health Check?
Anyone who is aged between 40 and 74, and not living with heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease or certain types of dementia, will be invited to attend an NHS Health Check every 5 years. As well as answering a few general questions about your health, you will also take part in a series of simple tests. The graphic below from AXA PPP Healthcare explains more about what to expect as part of your health check.
Your local GP surgery, or hospital, can also carry out an electrocardiogram, or ECG, if they feel it necessary to check your heart’s rhythm and electrical activity, but this is usually only requested if a medical professional is concerned by results from other tests.
We hope the information provided in this blog helps you to better understand your heart rate and how important it is to keep your heart healthy. Please know that any medical information provided here is for informational purposes and does not replace medical advice given to you by a medical professional. If you are concerned about your resting heart rate or your overall heart health, we encourage you to see your GP.
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