A rapid heart rate can indicate a health problem. Ways of lowering the heart rate include breathing and relaxation techniques, exercise, vagal maneuvers, dietary choices, and stress management.
This article will explain how to measure a person’s resting heart rate. It will also discuss the ideal range for someone’s heart rate, explain what causes differences in heart rate, and provide tips to lower the heart rate immediately and in the long term.
A person’s heart rate may suddenly spike in response to factors such as emotional stress or things in their environment. Addressing these causes
Ways to reduce sudden changes in heart rate include:
- practicing deep or guided breathing techniques, such as box breathing
- relaxing and trying to remain calm
- going for a walk, ideally away from an urban environment
- taking a warm, relaxing bath or shower
- practicing stretching and relaxation exercises, such as yoga
- performing vagal maneuvers
It is also possible for people to lower their heart rate in the long term. Many lifestyle habits can contribute to this. This can affect the heart rate during physical activity or periods of stress.
Some factors that may lower a person’s heart rate include:
The easiest and most effective way to achieve a lasting lower heart rate is to do regular exercise. For example, a
When the body is dehydrated, the heart has to work harder to stabilize blood flow. A
Limiting intake of stimulants
Stimulants can cause dehydration, increasing the heart’s workload. For example, there is
Limiting alcohol intake
Alcohol is also a toxin, and the body must work harder to process and remove it. This may sometimes result in heart rate increases.
Eating a nutritious, balanced diet
Eating a healthful diet can improve heart health and functioning. This diet should be rich in fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
Foods and supplements rich in antioxidants and healthy fats may lower blood pressure, making it easier for the heart to pump blood.
For example, a 2021 study concluded that the antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid effectively lowers blood pressure. Potassium-rich foods also lower blood pressure by reducing sodium load.
- omega-3 fatty acids from fish, nuts, and grains
- polyphenols and tannins from tea and coffee
- vitamin A from leafy, green vegetables
- dietary fiber from whole grains, nuts, and most fruits and vegetables
- vitamin C from citrus and other fruits and leafy greens
Getting enough sleep
A chronic lack of sleep puts stress on the whole body, including the heart. A
Maintaining a healthy body weight
Extra weight also puts stress on the body and heart. It is possible that this could lead to an increased heart rate. For example, extra weight could make exercise more challenging.
Reducing or resolving sources of substantial long-term stress
Stress from work, caring for a loved one, or financial burdens all cause the heart and body to work harder to maintain its usual rhythm. For example, a
Seeking counseling or psychological service
People cannot always resolve stressful situations and life events on their own. Traumatic experiences, grief, and certain mental health conditions stress the body, making it harder for people to cope with everyday activities. In these cases, counseling and therapy may be helpful.
Some techniques for lowering heart rate can involve changing environments. For example,
Practicing relaxation techniques
Relaxation techniques may also have a positive effect on stress. However, a 2019 meta-analysis noted that many studies on this topic have been of poor quality. The authors still highlight the possibility that meditation could improve psychological well-being but that more research is necessary on the topic.
A lower heart rate allows the heart to maintain a healthful rhythm and efficiently respond to stressors. A paper from 2015 suggests that high heart rates may contribute to health risks, including:
- increased blood pressure
- changes to protein activity in the heart
- changes to calcium usage by heart cells
- inflammation and oxidative stress
- blood vessel dysfunction
- organ system failure
- myocardial ischemia
- decreased cardiac output, which may cause persistent fatigue
- cardiac arrest
The heart rate varies. Many factors contribute to a changing heart rate, including:
- physical activity
- time of day
- hormonal changes
- emotional stress
A healthy resting heart rate will vary from person to person. For most people, a target resting heart rate should be between
A person can calculate their maximum heart rate by subtracting their age in years from 220. A healthful heart rate range is usually 50–70% of this maximum during moderate exercise.
During strenuous activity, the healthful range will be 70–85% of the maximum heart rate.
Average heart rate ranges during activity are:
|Age in years||Target heart rate||Average maximum heart rate|
|20||100–170 bpm||200 bpm|
|30||95–162 bpm||190 bpm|
|40||93–157 bpm||185 bpm|
|45||90–153 bpm||175 bpm|
|50||88–149 bpm||170 bpm|
|55||85–145 bpm||165 bpm|
|60||83–140 bpm||160 bpm|
|65||80–136 bpm||155 bpm|
|70||75–128 bpm||150 bpm|
An easy way to check the pulse is by placing the index and middle finger side-by-side on the neck, below the edge of the jawbone, and then counting how many heartbeats occur within 60 seconds.
It is best to measure the pulse after periods of rest. For this reason, a person should ideally count their heartbeats first thing in the morning before getting out of bed.
- sleep apnea
- thyroid disease
- coronary artery disease
- heart attack
- high blood pressure
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- peripheral vascular disease
An elevated heart rate is typically a natural physical response to environmental or other stressors. However, a resting heart rate that is high for long periods can signal an underlying medical condition.
If someone’s average heart rate is unusually high because of an underlying medical condition, medical interventions may be necessary. As a 2021 review explains, beta-blockers have the power to reduce heart rate. Doctors may prescribe beta-blockers to treat a variety of conditions, such as:
- high blood pressure
- heart attacks
- coronary artery disease
- congestive heart failure
In some circumstances, it is necessary to contact a doctor about a higher heart rate. These include if:
- There is no obvious cause for the increased heart rate.
- The increased heart rate is accompanied by other changes, such as shortness of breath, chest pain, blurry vision, or faintness.
- The increased heart rate continues for long periods, even while at rest.
A doctor should evaluate the thyroid, electrolytes, and blood counts. They may want to do other tests before they decide that a high heart rate is no cause for concern. That’s why it is always a good idea to contact a physician if a person meets any of these criteria.
Changes in heart rate happen naturally throughout the day. Resting heart rate is a sign of the heart’s health.
A consistently high heart rate may indicate health issues and could lead to negative outcomes.
However, many people are able to lower their resting heart rate through lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.