What is Resting Heart Rate?

The resting heart rate is the number of times the heart beats when the body is completely at rest, and the best time to take this measurement is before rising from bed in the morning. Even getting up to take a quick trip to the bathroom may slightly elevate the heart rate levels and cause them to be not truly ďresting.Ē Thus it may take a little planning to accurately calculate the resting heart rate. For instance, having a small wristwatch or timer by the bed so a person can check rate in the morning is a good idea.

Usually the easiest way to obtain the resting heart rate is to take a pulse measurement at the wrist, in about the center over what is called the radial artery, or on either side of the neck at the carotid artery. The carotid artery may be easier for taking a pulse, and the person should use the index and middle finger only to feel the beat of the artery. Donít use the thumb, as this has its own faint pulse and can mess up the count.

For the accurate heart rate, people count the pulse beats for one minute, but most people will get a fairly good measure of the resting heart rate by counting the pulse for fifteen seconds and multiplying this number by four. Note that the rate could have slight deviations each day, but it should remain within certain levels.

The average resting heart rate for adult men is about 70 beats per minute (bpm). In women, average is slightly higher at 75 bpm. Standard deviation suggests that in most adults, anything between 60-80 bpm is considered normal during rest, and some people who are athletes have an even lower rate at rest because their hearts beat more efficiently. If the rate falls outside this average, it may be of no concern, but itís a good idea to mention it to a physician. Infants and older kids have much higher rates than do adults. A newbornís heart may beat 120 times per minute, and older kids can have rates that still exceed 100 bpm.

One of the main reasons that people need to calculate the resting heart rate is because it part of the calculations that can determine target heart rate during cardiovascular or aerobic exercise. Of course, it isnít always necessary to follow a formula and if people have not exercised regularly or have heart conditions they should speak to physicians first about safe target rates. For the average person in good health, the target rate is about 50-85% of maximum rate, and maximum rate can be quickly determined by subtracting age from the number 220, so resting rate may never be needed.

In most cases people really donít need to take a resting heart rate, though this may be something done in doctorís offices. Itís also part of ďvitalsĒ examinations in hospitals. However, if a person suspects any problems with the heart, calculating a few days of the resting rate, since it is best done before a person gets out of bed, will provide good information for a doctor. Some people with known heart or blood pressure conditions may also be asked by their physicians to monitor this rate from time to time.