The human body is a complex machine with various components interacting to influence our overall health, quality of life, and lifespan. The heart, being the focal point of most of these interactions, is a key player in determining how well our kidneys function. As a result, various parameters about the heart, such as resting heart rate, heart output, muscle contractility etc. are important in predicting health. Interested in knowing more? Read on and find out!
What is Resting Heart Rate?
The number of times your heart beats per minute while you are at rest i.e. not engaged in any physical activity is known as your resting heart rate (RHR), and it is a measure of your cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) health. The usual range is between 60 to 100 beats per minute (bpm). According to acupuncture coaches, a low resting heart rate of less than 60 bpm is known as bradycardia (brady- slow, cardia– heart) and a heart rate exceeding 100 bpm is called tachycardia (tachy- fast, cardia-heart). Resting heart rate is often used as an indicator of fitness, with a lower resting heart rate considered an indication of good cardiovascular health. However, recent studies suggest that RHR may also predict lifespan, with a higher RHR associated with increased mortality.
What Factors Influence Resting Heart Rate?
Like many functions in the body, the RHR is the product of an interplay of many factors. These factors include:
1. Age – Generally, RHR decreases with age. The left chamber of the heart becomes stiffer with age and as a result, cannot pump as effectively and quickly as before.
2. Sex – Biological females tend to have a higher RHR than biological males. The reasons for this are still under research though it is believed that the female hormone, estrogen, plays a role in regulating heart function.
3. Exercise – Regular exercise strengthens the heart muscles and improves their pumping function. The net effect is that the heart does not have to work as hard to pump when the body is at rest leading to a lower RHR.
4. Emotions – Heightened emotional states such as anxiety, stress, excitement etc. cause hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) to be secreted in the blood and these hormones raise the RHR. This is a normal response.
5. Environment – Factors in the environment such as increased temperature may cause an increase in RHR because the body has to work harder to maintain an average core temperature. The converse applies in cold temperatures.
RHR and Life-span
So now that we know the factors that affect RHR, we can now explore the relationship between RHR and life expectation i.e. how long you’re anticipating to live.
In a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers analyzed the data of over 55,000 participants from the Copenhagen City Heart Study to determine the relationship between RHR and mortality. The study found that individuals with a RHR of 80 beats per minute (bpm) or higher had a significantly higher risk of mortality. Each increase of 10 bpm in RHR was associated with a 16% increase in the risk of death from any cause.
So, why does RHR have such a strong association with mortality? One possible explanation is that a higher RHR is indicative of poorer cardiovascular health. When your heart beats faster, it has to work harder to pump blood throughout your body, which can cause strain and damage to your blood vessels and organs over time. This can lead to the development of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes, which can increase the risk of mortality.
Another possible explanation is that a higher RHR may be an indicator of higher levels of stress and inflammation in the body. Chronic stress and inflammation have been linked to a wide range of health problems, including an increased risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases.
Ways To Lower Your RHR
While the relationship between RHR and mortality is complex, the evidence suggests that there are steps you can take to lower your RHR and improve your cardiovascular health. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and stress-reduction techniques such as meditation and deep breathing can all help to lower your RHR and reduce your risk of mortality. Foods that are rich in magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids may be helpful in optimizing cardiovascular health.
In addition, several studies have found that certain medications can lower RHR and improve cardiovascular health.
However, these medications should only be taken under the supervision of a doctor, as they can have side effects and interact with other medications.
It is important to note that RHR is just one of many factors that can influence lifespan, and it should not be used as the sole predictor of mortality. Other factors such as genetics, lifestyle, and environmental factors can also play a significant role in determining how long you live. Additionally, RHR can be influenced by a wide range of factors, including age, gender, medication use, and stress levels, among others.
In conclusion, while there is evidence to suggest that RHR is a predictor of mortality, it is important to remember that it is just one factor among many that can influence lifespan. However, taking steps to lower your RHR and improve your cardiovascular health, such as regular exercise and stress reduction techniques, can help to reduce your risk of mortality and improve your overall health and well-being.