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Resting and Target Heart Rates

Resting and heart health

Resting heart rate is one sign of how in shape you are. It is the rate (speed) at which your heart beats when you are at rest. A healthy range is 60-80 beats per minute. The best way time to measure your resting heart rate is first thing in the morning before you ever get out of bed.

The advantage of doing it then is you have not had any coffee which might increase your heart rate and you have not done any activities which might increase your heart rate.

For those of us who need glasses to see the clock or our watch, this is not possible. You have to reach for the glasses and watch. So get those and sit back down for one to two minutes. Then find your pulse at your wrist or neck. Count the beats for 60 seconds (one minute). This is your resting heart rate.

Even though 80 beats per minute is considered healthy, it is better to be in the 60-70 beats per minute range.

Target heart rate is where you want your heart rate during active exercising. Aiming for the range called your “target heart rate” is a good way to make sure your activity (ie walking, running, stair climbing) is at a pace that will benefit your heart and cardiovascular health. It is a range that should be 50 – 85 % of your maximum heart rate.

Using a watch or heart rate measuring device while exercising is one way to watch measure your heart rate. Another is to actually count your pulse while exercising or as soon as you stop. If you don’t wish to do those two things, then aim for what is called a "conversational pace" during moderate activities like walking.

The pace is “conversational” if you can talk without any difficulty while walking. If you can sing, then you aren’t working hard enough. If you get out of breath too quickly or can’t talk at all, then you are working too hard.

Your maximum heart rate is about 220 minus your age. This is the heart rate which is safe and should not put you at increased risk of a heart attach while exercising. When you start an exercise program, it is best to aim for the lower part of your target zone (50 percent) the first few weeks. Gradually build up to the higher part of your target zone.

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The figures are averages, so use them as general guidelines. Here are some examples:

30 years
Target zone: 95–162 beats per minute
Max heart rate: 190 beats per minute

40 years
Target zone: 90–153 beats per minute
Max heart rate: 180 beats per minute

50 years
Target zone: 85–145 beats per minute
Max heart rate: 170 beats per minute

60 years
Target zone: 80–136 beats per minute
Max heart rate: 160 beats per minute

70 years
Target zone: 75–128 beats per minute
Max heart rate: 150 beats per minute

There are some high blood pressure medications that lower the maximum heart rate and thus the target zone rate. If you're taking high blood pressure medicine, call your physician to find out if you need to use a lower target heart rate.

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American Heart Association