Our hearts beat about 100,000 times per day with pulse rate reflecting life-sustaining pumping of blood from the heart to the entire body. Steady circulation with regular pulse rate in the normal range is vital for well-being. Monitoring of pulse rate is routinely performed during hospitalizations but advances in technologies could be also accomplished at home in order to monitor general well-being or specific therapies.
Typically, pulse rate is measured by checking pulse in an artery on a wrist, but this approach is difficult for many people. Some watches offer pulse rate monitoring but this requires purchasing specific types of watches and wearing it continuously. VPG Medical offers the HealthKam technology, a non-contact and effortless option to measure pulse rate from a video camera of smartphone or tablet during their daily use.
Normal ranges of pulse rate during rest in adults are defined between 60-100 beats per minute (bpm), although most adults show values between 55-90 bpm. In athletes, a lower range of pulse rates might go down to 50 or even 40 bpm. In children, normal ranges vary by age: from 100-170 bpm in the first few months of life to 70-130 bpm at the age of 10 years and by the age of 18 years usually, it ranges at 55-90 bpm.
Heart rate (pulse rate) is influenced by numerous conditions including your genes, exercise, sleep, excitement, stress, and even a meal. Pregnant women have a physiologically elevated heart rate during 2nd and 3rd trimester. Although normal ranges of pulse rates are broad, it is believed that an ideal resting rate is between 50 to 70 bpm.
Resting pulse rate might be elevated or decreased for several reasons and knowing your average resting pulse rate might help to recognize situations that may require attention.
Elevated resting heart rate, called tachycardia, might be caused by:
Infection, cold, flu with fever
Excessive caffeine or alcohol use
Dehydration, especially in older individuals
Hyperthyroidism (elevated thyroid function)
Slower resting heart rate, called bradycardia, occurs less often and might be caused by:
Some heart diseases
Medications lowering heart rate like beta-blockers (metoprolol, propranolol), calcium channel blockers (diltiazem, verapamil), ivabradine, digoxin
Hypothyroidism (low thyroid function)
Knowing your resting pulse rate is important like knowing your blood pressure or your temperature during an infection.
Heart Rate in Fever
In a large 2019 analysis of heart rate among 123.3 million patients who visited the emergency department due to fever, 5.2% of patients had a temperature over 38 °Celsius (100.4 Fahrenheit). The mean heart rate was 93.3 bpm, and 28% had a heart rate over 100 bpm. An increase in temperature by 1 °Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) was associated with approximately 7 bpm increase in heart rate (Am J Emerg Med. 2019 Jul 18:S0735-6757).
Heart Rate in Healthy Subjects
Heart rate (pulse rate) is a good measure of physical fitness and well-being. Resting heart rate is lower in individuals who exercise regularly. In a Copenhagen Male Study, 2,798 healthy men were observed for cardiovascular health for 16 years. A high resting heart rate was linked with lower physical fitness and higher blood pressure, and body weight. Furthermore, the higher resting heart rate, the greater the risk of premature death: if between 81 and 90 bpm mortality doubled, and higher than 90 bpm mortality tripled. When analyzing heart rate as a continuous variable, the risk of mortality increased with 16% per 10 bpm (Heart 2013;99:882-7).
Knowing your resting pulse rate provides you with the ability to be proactive regarding your lifestyle modifications, your risk profile, and health immediate and long-term needs.
You might also assist your parents, loved once, and friends who will share information about pulse rate with you.
Heart Rate in Heart Disease Patients
In patients with chronic heart failure with reduced heart muscle function, a heart rate above 70 bpm increases the risk of hospitalization, and above 75 bpm the risk of cardiovascular death (Lancet 2010;376:886–894). Treatment with heart rate lowering medications (predominantly beta-blockers) is recommended to maintain resting heart rate optimally between 55 - 70 bpm. Therefore, pulse rate monitoring might be particularly useful to determine whether the heart rate is in the expected range. If the resting pulse rate is out of this range, especially above 75 bpm, there should be a need for reevaluation of the patient’s well-being and assessment of the medication regimen to decrease the risk of disease progression.
Some patients on beta-blockers after heart attacks and patients with hypertension and coronary disease might also benefit from pulse rate monitoring to optimize therapy.