A normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute.

Generally, a lower heart rate at rest implies more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness. For example, a well-trained athlete might have a normal resting heart rate closer to 40 beats per minute.

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.

When you feel your pulse, count the number of beats in 15 seconds. Multiply this number by four to calculate your beats per minute.

Keep in mind that many factors can influence heart rate, including:

  • Age
  • Fitness and activity levels
  • Being a smoker
  • Having cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol or diabetes
  • Air temperature
  • Body position (standing up or lying down, for example)
  • Emotions
  • Body size
  • Medications

Although there’s a wide range of normal, an unusually high or low heart rate may indicate an underlying problem. Consult your doctor if your resting heart rate is consistently above 100 beats a minute (tachycardia) or if you’re not a trained athlete and your resting heart rate is below 60 beats a minute (bradycardia) — especially if you have other signs or symptoms, such as fainting, dizziness or shortness of breath.

Fast heart rate

When your heart rate is too fast, it’s called tachycardia. For adults, a fast heart rate is generally defined as a heart rate over 100 beats per minute.

However, what’s considered too fast may also depend on your age and overall health.

There are many different types of tachycardia. Their classification is based on their cause and the part of the heart they affect. Experiencing tachycardia may be temporary.

Some possible causes of tachycardia can include:

  • an underlying health condition
  • anxiety or stress
  • fatigue
  • heavy caffeine consumption
  • heavy alcohol consumption
  • electrolyte imbalance
  • fever
  • intense or strenuous exercise or physical activity
  • side effects from medication
  • cigarette smoking
  • certain drug use (such as cocaine)

Slow heart rate

When your heart rate is too slow, it’s referred to as bradycardia. Bradycardia is typically defined as a heart rate that’s less than 60 beats per minute. 

For athletes and people that exercise regularly, a heart rate of under 60 beats per minute is normal and even healthy.

Some possible causes of bradycardia include:

When it’s dangerous

As mentioned earlier, both tachycardia and bradycardia can be indicators of an underlying health condition. If you’re experiencing either, you could have an underlying condition that requires medical evaluation and treatment.

Tachycardia can be caused by an underlying health condition such as:

Bradycardia can be caused by the following conditions:

If you experience a heart rate that’s too high or too low for an extended period of time, it can lead to a variety of potentially serious health complications, including:

 

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