Imagine someone telling you that you have a fixed amount heart beats in your lifetime and that you should choose very carefully how you spend them.
That is scary, but it also not very far from reality. Do you want your waste your heart beats in being angry, stressed and out-breath. These are all common situations where our heart rate rises and we for sure don’t want that.
Heart is important
Your RHR is how fast your heart beats when you are relaxed. RHR is both a gauge of your heart health and a biomarker of aging. RHR changes as you age and varies from person to person. It is important to know your RHR as it can help you assess your heart health over time. Being aware of changes in your RHR can help you uncover a heart condition early. How can you lower your resting heart rate to live longer and reduce your risk of serious diseases? Let’s dive into this.
Is it is said that the total number of heartbeats per lifetime is similar across all mammals. For example, a mouse has a heart rate of 500 to 600 beats per minute but live less than two years. At the other extreme, the Galápagos tortoise has a heart rate of about six beats per minute and has a life expectancy of 177 years. By doing some simple maths we can see that the heart of a mouse beats 100 times faster than that of a turtle. But a turtle lives 100 times longer than the mouse. Humans, are are somewhere in the middle with about 60 bpm and have about 1 billion heartbeats per lifetime.
Of-course this is only an indication. But a stong indication of metabolic health. The faster the metabolic rate (how fast you age), the shorter your lifespan.
People with a higher resting heart rate may have a shorter life expectancy compared to those with a lower resting heart rate.
In a recent report from 2019 confirms how important resting heart rate is. Participants with a baseline RHR of greater than 75 bpm had about a two-fold higher risk of all-cause death , cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease compared with those with less then 55 bpm. Furthermore, every beat increase in heart rate was associated with a 3% higher risk for all-cause death!
What affects the resting heart rate
Everything is important but they are sorted in order of importance.
- Emotions: Being stressed, excited, or upset will raise your pulse and keep it high for a long time.
- Body Size: If you are obese your RHR could be higher than average as your heart needs to work harder to circulate throughout your body.
- Medications: High doses of thyroid medication can raise it.
- Water: Being dehydrated raises your RHR.
- Temperature: When temperature and humidity rise, the heart needs to pump more blood. This may increase the pulse rate up to 5 to 10 bpm.
- Exercise raises your heart rate temporarily, but over time your body becomes more efficient and your resting heart rate lowers naturally. Too much exercise or exercising for more than 45 minutes a day might have the opposite effect.
- Reducing Stress through meditation and other stress management techniques helps your body reach a relaxed state, and lower your resting heart rate.
- Maintain a healthy weight: The larger the body, the harder the heart must work. Losing weight will bring down your resting heart rate.
- Diet: A whole food based diet lowers resting heart rate naturally. Practising intermittent fasting will also help, since you will give your gut a chance to rest from digestion which is a very intense process.
- Stay hydrated: Drinking water generally lowers RHR and activates your parasympathetic nervous system.
Lowering your resting heart rate is from my perspective a key marker of health, and you should monitor it closely. You can do that with a good sleep tracking device as it is best to monitor you RHR during sleep. A good target could be around 50 bpm, but this is very individual to everyone.
From all the tips presented above, I would suggest putting extra emphasis on relaxation before sleep. Sleep quality is largely neglected and reducing our heart rate before going to sleep will help us get to our lowest RHR early in the night and feel refreshed.
Practicing for 10 minutes before sleep some simple breathing techniques will help you a lot! You should inhale slow and exhale even more slowly. Aim for 5 to 6 breaths in a minute. It might take some time to get comfortable with this, but your body will thank you for it. The heart will stop being over-worked, there will be an increase in red blood cells and mitochondria in your muscles.
It can take several weeks to significantly lower your resting heart rate naturally, but trust me it is really worth it.