How to Lower Your Resting Heart Rate, and Why it Matters

Woman checking her heart rate on smart watch

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Most people have felt their heart rate increase at one point or another. Whether it is brought on by stress, increased activity, or even having an extra cup of coffee, your heart often beats faster when your body needs to circulate blood and transport oxygen.

Some people don't feel their heart rate increase until they are involved in strenuous activities while others may notice a change when going up a flight of stairs. Although these fluctuations are often equated with fitness level, it is a bit more complex than that. 

Your heart rate also can increase for a number of other reasons as well like a change in position, underlying medical issues, and certain medications. For this reason, it is important to keep track of your heart rate when you are at rest, sitting, or standing. This measurement tells you how hard your body is working at a basic level, with no physical stressors. Read on to learn about your resting heart rate, why it matters, and what you can do to lower it.

What is Resting Heart Rate?   

Your resting heart rate is how many times your heart beats per minute when your body is at rest. People often take their resting heart rate first thing in the morning when they are simply sitting or standing and have not done any type of physical activity. When you take this measurement, your heart will be pumping the lowest amount of blood necessary for basic bodily function.

It is important to check your heart rate when you are resting because that measurement tells you how hard your body is working to maintain itself. Generally, fewer beats per minute is healthier, but not always. The average person should keep a resting heart rate between 60 and 100 beats per minute. However, a healthcare provider can tell you what resting heart rate is right for you.

Why Does Resting Heart Rate Matter? 

Regardless of sex, ethnicity, or age, studies have shown that a higher resting heart rate correlates with poorer cardiovascular health. This increased rate can then lead to cardiovascular disease, which increases the risk of death if left untreated.

Your heart is vital to all of your bodily functions because it pumps blood to the rest of your body, which helps transport needed oxygen and nutrients. This is why it’s important to keep your heart healthy. One way to do this is by lowering your resting heart rate.

Studies have found that your resting heart rate is also related to your ability to function as you get older. Because poor heart health can lead to more difficulty with daily activities and functions, it is vital to keep your heart healthy so you can continue to do the tasks you need (and the hobbies you love).

How to Lower Your Resting Heart Rate

Because a lower resting heart rate is often associated with better cardiovascular health, it is important to take steps to keep your heart healthy. If you would like to lower your resting heart rate for any reason, here are some things you can do.

Exercise More

Studies have found that almost all types of sports and exercise can help lower your resting heart rate. But, one of the most effective types of exercise for your heart is endurance training. Some examples include running, walking, biking, or dancing. Even taking the stairs instead of the elevator can help. Endurance training can even improve your performance when strength training.

Another type of exercise that can help lower your resting heart rate is yoga. At its most basic level, yoga involves many important aspects of exercise including stretching and strength training. But adding endurance training to your yoga sessions can have an added benefit. One study found that those who incorporated more endurance training into their yoga sessions had the best results for lowering their resting heart rate.

Reduce Stress

Stress, anxiety, anger, and other negative emotions can raise your resting heart rate. While some studies have found a connection between that poor health or socioeconomic status can lead to higher stress levels and ultimately a higher resting heart rate, you cannot always change your socioeconomic status.

That said, there are likely other things in your life that are contributing to your stress levels. As a result, it is essential to be honest about when you are stressed and why. Over time, you should be able to note specific things that cause you stress.

While some of these things may be out of your control, you should be able to find some stress triggers that you can avoid. You also have control over your response to stress and may be able to reduce your stress by looking at situations differently.

If you have having trouble dealing with stressors in your life, you may benefit from speaking with a mental health professional. They can help you find healthy ways of coping with stress.

Avoid Caffeine and Tobacco

Drinking coffee, or ingesting caffeine in any other way, can increase your heart rate. One study determined that drinking three or more cups of coffee per day has a significant negative effect on your heart rate.

Not only does ingesting caffeine bring your heart rate up, but it causes your heart rate to be more variable during the day. Your heart rate goes up as you digest the caffeine and then comes down afterward, causing a swing in heart rate every time you digest more caffeine.

Tobacco also has a negative effect on your heart rate. Not only is smoking linked with a higher resting heart rate, but it also puts your cardiovascular system at greater risk for disease and even death.

Additionally, researchers have demonstrated that quitting smoking will lower your resting heart rate. While it is beneficial to quit smoking for many reasons, it is imperative to do so if you have a high resting heart rate.

Consider Temperature and Hydration

Increased body temperature can also be associated with a higher heart rate. Ensuring your house, bed, or bath is not too warm can help to lower your heart rate. Likewise, if you are going outside, be sure to dress appropriately for the weather and bring a water bottle. Hydration is an important factor in both your body’s cooling ability and your resting heart rate.

Being dehydrated can cause a higher resting heart rate, especially when exercising. It also causes an increase in body temperature, which can further raise your resting heart rate. Stay both cool and hydrated, especially if you are in a warm environment or are exercising. And bring a bottle of water with you and to cool off when you need to.

Check Your Medications

The side effects of a medication are not always immediately apparent. For example, certain medications can cause an increase in your resting heart rate. If you are concerned about the side effects of your medications, talk to a healthcare provider about your resting heart rate and the medicines you take.

They can recommend medication alternatives, changes in dosage, or advise you whether or not to continue taking it. If you are considering stopping any medication, it is imperative to talk with a healthcare provider first about the safest way to do so.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Aside from fitness level, many other things can cause an elevated heart rate, so if your resting heart rate is more 100 beats per minute you should see a healthcare provider. Often they will run a variety of tests—such as thyroid testing, a blood count, and an electrocardiogram—to help determine the root cause of your high heart rate.

You also should pay attention to any discomfort during exercise or stress, such as chest pain or shortness of breath, says Campbell Rogers, MD, FACC, a cardiologist, executive vice president and chief medical officer at HeartFlow. These symptoms could be signs of heart disease, which can be deadly but is often treatable if diagnosed quickly.

If you feel pain or shortness of breath during exercise, stop immediately and contact a healthcare professional right away. Call 911 if you experience signs or symptoms of a heart attack.

A Word From Verywell 

Your resting heart rate provides insight into your health and fitness level. If you want to lower your resting heart rate, start with exercise and changes in your lifestyle. Staying hydrated, reducing stress, and quitting smoking are great areas to focus on.

If your resting heart rate is more than 100 beats per minute or if you feel pain, discomfort, or shortness of breath during activity, you need to see a healthcare provider right away. You also should talk to a healthcare provider if you intend to stop taking medication to lower your resting heart rate. They can tell you if it is a good idea to stop taking it and the safest way to do so. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is a good resting heart rate by age?

    For children ages 6 to 15, their resting heart rate should be 70 to 100 beats per minute. For adults ages 18 and over, their resting heart rate should be 60 to 100 beats per minute.

  • Why is my resting heart rate so high?

    High resting heart rates can be caused by a variety of different issues. For instance, severe pain or systemic medical illnesses like anemia, advanced lung disease, or eve an overactive thyroid gland can cause an increase in your heart rate. It can also be caused by medication. It may even be a sign of heart disease. If you have a high resting heart rate, you should talk to healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis.

  • Can drinking water lower your heart rate?

    Being dehydrated or experiencing a high body temperature can both cause an increase in resting heart rate. It is always important to stay hydrated, especially if you are exercising or are in a warm environment.

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