Many of us probably don’t know what our resting heart rate is, however, it is a key component of our heart health that is often overlooked. Knowing your heart rate is important because the higher your resting heart rate, the greater your risk of death is.
“Many people are walking around with a resting heart rate that is too high, due to factors such as too much caffeine, dehydration, inactivity and persistent stress. Those extra heartbeats over time can be taking years off your life,” says Ronesh Sinha, M.D., an internal medicine physician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation.
The good news is, however, that this important number is fairly easy to monitor and will tell you a lot about your health. It can give you insight into your fitness level, heart health, and emotional health. It can even help with stress management.
So how do you know what a normal heart rate is?
If you’re an adult, your heart should beat somewhere between 50 and 90 times per minute when you’re resting, regardless of your age or sex. If you’re a super-fit athlete, your heartbeat may be as low as 40 or 50 beats per minute. If you’re overweight, if you’re a smoker, or if you have high blood pressure, your heart rate may be a little on the fast side.
How do I measure my heart rate?
The easiest way to measure your heart rate, or pulse, is to use a heart-rate monitor. This is a band that goes around your chest and displays your heart rate on a wristwatch-like gadget. You can find these monitors, which cost $50 to $200, at most sporting-goods stores and many specialized websites that sell sports equipment.
Of course, if you don’t have a heart-rate monitor, you can measure your pulse the old-fashioned way. First, find your pulse in your wrist or neck.
Hold one hand (preferably the one without a watch) in front of you, with your palm turned upward. Press the first two fingertips (index and middle) of your other hand on the outer edge of your upturned wrist (under the thumb, just below the place where your hand meets your wrist), until you can feel a strong beat. Don’t use your thumb to feel for your pulse, because you can often feel a pulse in it as well.
Press your first two fingertips against the side of your neck, just below your jawbone and about halfway between your ear and your chin, until