Are you listening to your Heart?

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I’m sure most of us, if not all of us, have done blood test and know our blood glucose level, cholesterol level, thyroid level and so on. It is important to keep these levels in control to keep our heart healthy and indeed to keep us healthy. If you have not done your blood test, I strongly urge you to see a primary care physician and get it done right away.

Alright, is doing the blood test and keeping these levels in control enough? If you want to live a long and healthy life, keeping these levels in control is not enough. We see a lot of people who are young and energetic suddenly get cardiac arrest and experience sudden death, why?

We all are committed to our work and are working very hard, at times more than 12 hours a day. We are easily getting stressed out with too much work pressure and business travel. We literally work day and night and sleep less. Are we leading a healthy life style?

Every day, your heart is speaking to you, are you listening? Are you listening to your heart beat? Your heart beat tells you exactly how fit you are. You could be in for a great change if you listen to your heart. 

We tend to think of the normal heart beat rate as being 72 beats per minute. In reality, the heart rate is not constant and should not be constant. The 72 beats per minute is the normal average heart rate. Our heart rate goes up or down every moment in time. An anxiety, a stress or even a surprise (for example the simple noise of a doorbell) can increase the heart rate and blood pressure.

Maximum Heart Rate:

A maximum heart rate is the highest heart rate you can achieve in one minute. As we age, our maximum heart rate decreases. The easiest and best known method to calculate your maximum heart rate is to use the formula

Maximum Heart Rate = 220 - Age

For a 20 year old, the maximum heart rate will be 200. And for a 70 year old, the maximum heart rate will be 150.

If you are running on a treadmill and if your heart rate is at or close to the maximum, you have to be really careful. When your heart is functioning at its maximum it can suddenly stop. Your workout heart rate should be below 80% of the maximum.

Resting Heart Rate:

This is a very important number each one of us should know. There is no formula to calculate the Resting Heart Rate. Resting Heart Rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute while you are at rest. Resting Heart Rate varies from person to person even for people in the same age group. Your Resting Heart Rate is lower when you're physically fit. As we age, our resting heart rate tends to increase. This means our heart needs to work harder even when we are at rest.

As the maximum heart rate decreases, the resting heart rate increases with the age. We would be in a red or a danger zone as we age. When we are in that range, we can get heart attacks even when we are sleeping or resting. Good news is you can control your Resting Heart Rate.

According to the American Heart Association, the average resting heart rate should be between 60-80 beats per minute. For athletes or people who often perform cardiovascular activity, a normal resting heart rate may be closer to 40 beats a minute, with the most noted example being that Lance Armstrong reportedly had a resting heat rate of 32 beats per minute when he was in peak conditioning.

Upper end of the Resting Heart Rate range may mean a greater chance of serious health problems. If you are resting heart rate is above 80 beats per minute, you have good chance of having a heart attack in the next 10 years.

If your blood pressure is normal, can you have a normal Resting Heart Rate? There's no simple relationship between heart rate (which is measured in beats per minute) and blood pressure (measured in millimeters of mercury, or mmHg). A person can have a normal resting heart rate and still have high blood pressure. And someone whose heart rate is abnormal can have normal blood pressure

How do we measure Resting Heart Rate? Resting Heart Rate is measured when you are relaxed and awake. It’s best to check it in the morning after you’ve had a good night’s sleep and before you get out of bed. To measure your heart rate, simply check your pulse. Place your index and third fingers on your neck to the side of your windpipe. To check your pulse at your wrist, place two fingers between the bone and the tendon over your radial artery — which is located on the thumb side of your wrist. Count your pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by 6. Or you can measure it using a simple heart rate monitor.

The heart is a muscle, and, like all muscles, it grows stronger with exercise. The stronger it is, the more efficient it is, taking fewer beats to pump blood throughout the body. So a heart with a resting heart rate under 50 is likely to be especially strong and healthy. That’s why highly conditioned athletes often have resting heart rates of 40 to 60 beats per minute.

Aerobic exercise is the very best way to maintain a healthy resting heart rate. Some other ways to lower your resting pulse is to make sure you regularly get a full night’s sleep, stay hydrated, quit smoking, do yoga and meditation and maintain a healthy weight, excess weight makes the heart work harder to circulate blood, raising your resting heart rate.

Measure your resting heart rate on a regular basis, perhaps at the beginning of each month, to gauge your progress.