Heart Rate 101: Take Your Pulse Like a Pro

Heart health
October 2, 2017

Is your resting heart rate normal? When is the last time you checked? The Nokia Health Mate app enables you to measure your heart rate, but what do the numbers mean, and when and how can you best measure it? Read on to find out if you’re heart-healthy or in need of a boost.

Your heart is hard at work 24/7

Your heart may beat faster every time that special someone walks into the room, but it’s responsible for so much more than that. The heart is a muscle that contracts rhythmically day in and day out to circulate blood throughout the body. When your body is at rest, four to six liters of blood are pumped through the heart each minute. During physical exertion, your heart beats even faster, pumping six times as much blood, or up to 24 liters, through the heart each minute.

How is heart rate measured?

HR measurement in the Nokia Health Mate app
HR measurement in the Nokia Health Mate app

Heart rate is expressed in number of beats per minute (bpm). It varies throughout the day depending on whether you’re eating, sleeping, experiencing stress, engaging in physical activity, or relaxing and reading a book. The more strenuous the exertion, the higher your heart rate. Heart rate can also rise if you haven’t exercised in a while, especially if you’re stressed or have a fever.

Resting heart rate is one of many measurements that can help you determine how healthy you are.

Know how (and when) to take your pulse

The best time to measure your resting heart rate is a few minutes after waking up in the morning. Your body is least stressed first thing in the morning and will give a more accurate reading. Additionally, early morning measurements will reduce the effects of any stress associated with measuring your heart rate and waiting for results.

Measure your resting heart rate using the following guidelines:

  • Sit motionless in a calm setting
  • Make sure your feet are flat on the floor and your body is relaxed
  • Do not talk
  • Whenever possible, strive for “normal conditions.” For example, avoid measuring heart rate after a poor night’s sleep or right after strenuous exercise.

What is a healthy heart rate?

Experts say a normal resting heart rate should range between 60 and 100 bpm, but some studies consider 50 to 85 bpm to be the most optimal. An athletic person can have an even lower resting heart rate—between 40 and 60 bpm.

A resting heart rate above 100 bpm or below 40 bpm is considered abnormal and may be a sign of heart disease.

What about the UK?
According to Nokia community data, users from the UK had an average resting heart rate of 69 bpm in July 2017.

Is your heart in good shape?

Heart disease, such as peripheral artery disease, restricts the blood flow throughout the circulatory system, causing the heart rate to rise to compensate. Obese individuals (with a BMI of 30 or greater) are also more likely to experience heart disease and poor blood flow.

The good news: Regular exercise strengthens the heart, allowing it to beat more efficiently. As you become fitter, your heart will become stronger, and will pump a greater volume of oxygen-rich blood throughout the body with each beat, meaning that it doesn’t have to pump as often to keep your body functioning optimally.

So, do you feel like a heart rate pro? We hope these tips find (and keep) you in good health.

Having a health check
If you live in England, are aged between 40 and 74, and have not already been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, diabetes or dementia, you should be invited to have a free health check at your local GP surgery, to assess your risk of those conditions. Free health checks are also available in Scotland for 40-64 year olds, and in Wales for those aged over 50.

If you have any concerns about your heart rate, always consult with your doctor.