3 Myths About Heart Rate

Weighing in at 11 ounces, the human heart isn’t the biggest muscle that honor goes to the gluteus maximus but it is the hardest working. According to medical machines, the average heart pumps about two ounces of blood per beat. By the end of the day, the average human heart has pumped enough times to pump about 2,000 gallons!

Doctors often measure your heart’s health and, by proxy, your health in general by its heart rate. But how accurate is your heart rate and its connection with the rest of your body? Let’s take a look at some common myths about heart rate.

1. A fast resting pulse points to stress.

It’s true that extreme stress can push your resting heart rate up beyond 100 beats per minute, but it’s not the only cause for a speedy heart. Tachycardia, which describes an irregularly fast heart rate, can be caused by smoking, excessive caffeine consumption, anemia, fever, dehydration, or a thyroid problem.

Tachycardia can potentially send your heart rate over the top, well beyond 200 BPM. Medical veterinary equipment measures the heart rate of active young puppies as about 220 beats per minute. At that speed, you can succumb to symptoms that include chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, and fainting. If your heart rate is high at rest, don’t assume it’s just because of stress. There may be an underlying physical issue.

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2. A slow heart is a weak heart.

People often think that a slow heart means you’re closer to being a zombie than a human, but that’s actually the opposite of the truth. The heart is a muscle, and as with any muscle, the more you exercise your heart, the stronger it gets, the more efficiently it works, which means taking fewer beats per minute to pump blood through your body. A heart rate under 50 isn’t uncommon in athletes and likely points to a particularly strong and healthy heart. Used EKG machines measure the average heart rate of conditioned athletes between 40 and 60 beats per minute. Unless there are noticeable symptoms, a slow heart rate is no cause for alarm.

3. A normal heart rate means normal blood pressure.

There’s no simple relationship between the two. One is measured in beats per minute, the other in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). A person can have a perfectly normal resting heart rate but still have high blood pressure, and vice versa. Intense exercise can raise your heart rate dramatically but only minutely increase your blood pressure. Don’t assume that the two necessarily go hand in hand. The only way to measure blood pressure is with a blood pressure cuff.

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