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6 Things Your Resting Heart Rate Can Tell You About Your Health
by Harley Pasternak

Your resting heart rate is a number you may not think about very often. But what if I told you it’s one of the most important numbers you should know. Not only can your resting heart rate be used to track your fitness level and target your workouts, but it can also alert you to a variety of potential health issues. So get to know your resting heart rate—and what’s normal for you—through the Fitbit app and then learn how it can help inform your health.

6 Things Your Resting Heart Rate Can Tell You

You’re Not Active Enough
A normal resting heart rate for the average adult is 60 to 100 beats per minute (bpm) or 40 to 60 bpm for highly conditioned athletes. If you’re sedentary most of the day, your RHR likely approaches or exceeds the top end of this range. This may be  because your heart is less efficient. The good news? By regularly engaging in moderate to vigorous aerobic activities (brisk walking, biking, swimming), you will help your heart  become more efficient at pumping blood, plus you might shed a few pounds, all of which will lower your resting heart rate over time. Even modest reductions in resting heart rate can dramatically reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and add years to your life!

You’re Overtraining
While pushing your body can lead to great gains, it can also be detrimental. If you notice an increase in your resting heart rate when you’re going heavy on the training and light on the rest, your body may be telling you that you need to scale back. By giving it the proper rest it needs, your body can repair and adapt and you may bounce back  stronger than ever.

You’re Too Stressed
Prolonged mental and emotional stress can also cause your resting heart rate to creep up over time. If “fight-or-flight” mode becomes your norm, the associated increase in your resting heart rate can produce a higher risk of heart attacks, strokes, and much more. Try adding relaxation into your day—read, meditate, go for a walk with friends, or do a guided breathing session in the Coaching tab of your Fitbit app. Regular relaxation activities may help you combat your stress and which could lead to a lower resting heart rate.

You’re Sleep Deprived
Always exhausted? Chronic sleep deprivation—which can lead to fatigue, a lower metabolism, and extra snacking—can also raise your resting heart rate.  Aim for at least 7 hours of sleep each night.

You’re Dehydrated
During a hot summer day, if you notice a temporary increase in your resting heart rate, your body might simply be trying to cool down. However, it could also mean you’re dehydrated—especially if you’re thirstier than usual, your mouth is dry, and your pee is more yellow than normal. To help lower your resting heart rate, drink more water.

You’re Developing a Medical Condition
If you experience shortness of breath, unusual fatigue, dizziness, excessive thirst/urination and your resting heart rate has increased, you might be at risk for cardiovascular disease, hyperthyroidism, or type-2 diabetes. However, a low resting heart rate isn’t always ideal either. When combined with symptoms (like those above), it could indicate an issue with the electrical system of your heart. If you’re concerned, discuss these changes with your doctor.

Two Caveats to Keep in Mind

If you notice a change in your resting heart rate but none of the scenarios above seem plausible, there are two other factors that may be playing a part: age and medication.

Resting Heart Rate Increases With Age
Most of the time your RHR can be modified. Unfortunately, as you get older, your RHR tends to increase. To reduce the impact that aging can have on your cardiovascular system, you can help maximize your results by exercising within your target HR zone to help lower your resting heart rate.

Medication Affects Resting Heart Rate
Changes in your resting heart rate can also result from over-the-counter or prescription medications. Medications to treat asthma, depression, obesity, and attention deficit disorder tend to increase your RHR. However, medications prescribed for hypertension and heart conditions (beta blockers, calcium channel blockers) typically decrease your resting heart rate.

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This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.