28 Feb Fun facts about your hard-working heart
By: Brittany Crider, MD
Your heart is one hard-working muscle – a fascinating, giant pump that’s working every second of every minute of every day. It’s working hard for you, so let these fun facts about your heart inspire you to work a little harder to keep it healthy.
Your adult heart beats about 100,000 times a day. That’s at least one beat every second, or 60-100 times a minute, according to the American Heart Association. For people whose heart rate is closer to 60 beats per minute, that’s about 86,000 times a day. And it’s 144,000 times a day if your heart rate is closer to 100 beats per minute.
As you get older, your heart rate gets slower. As children grow, their little bodies are constantly undergoing changes – limbs get longer and bones get stronger. According to the National Institutes of Health, your heart rate also changes throughout your early life: 0-11 months – 70-160 beats per minute; 1-4 years – 80-120 beats per minute; and 5-9 years – 75-110 beats per minute.
A normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute. Generally, a lower heart rate at rest implies better heart health and that your heart is functioning more efficiently. For example, a well-trained athlete might have a normal resting heart rate closer to 40-50 beats per minute.
Your heart rate drops while you sleep. As you sleep, it’s common for heart rates to drop below 60 beats per minute. Why? Your metabolism slows, which in turn slows your heart and helps your body relax.
While in the office, we may measure your heart rate with something on your finger called a pulse oximeter. However, you can check it at home as well. Taking one hand, place one to two fingers beside your windpipe. For the best position, you can place the outside of your little finger against your chin and the others will fall over your carotid artery beside your windpipe allowing you to feel your pulse. You can also check it on your wrist.
Turning your palm up, take the middle and ring finger of the other hand and place them on the thumb side of your wrist between the bone and the tendon. This will be over your radial artery. When you feel your pulse, count the number of beats in 15 seconds and multiply that 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 heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes, air temperature, body position (standing up vs. lying down, for example), emotions, body size, medications you are currently taking.
Although there’s a wide range of normal, an unusually high or low heart rate may indicate an underlying problem. Consult your provider 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.
Make sure you’re working hard to keep your heart healthy – just like it’s working hard for you. An annual check-up with your primary care provider or a cardiologist can help you take a more active role in your heart health.