A Window to Cardiovascular Health

casual runner

“Casual Runner” by Chris Hunkeler is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Resting heart rate paints a vivid picture of cardiovascular health and impacts the body’s response to sports physical therapy interventions. RHR, or resting heart rate, is the number of times the heart beats per minute when the body is not physically active — such as when sitting.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the “normal” range for a resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute (BPM), though resting heart rates vary from person to person based on various circumstances. For example, resting heart rate is significantly influenced by mood, environment, cardiovascular fitness, and stress.

As a rule of thumb — as cardiovascular health increases, resting heart rate tends to decrease. Therefore, athletes often have lower resting heart rates than those that do not regularly exercise. That said, resting heart rate is an important measure for anyone looking to improve their overall health.

What Your Resting Heart Rate Says About Your Cardiovascular Health

The heart is responsible for pumping blood and oxygen throughout the body. An elevated resting heart rate causes increased strain on the heart, often  linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a higher risk of heart disease.

A resting heart rate of more than 100 BPM is called tachycardia, whereas an RHR below 60 beats per minute is called bradycardia.

Other than a few exceptions (for example, medications that lower the heart rate), a lower resting heart rate is an indication that the heart is more efficiently pumping blood, requiring fewer beats per minute to distribute blood throughout the body. Because each beat is more powerful, the heart is much stronger than one with a high resting heart rate.

Fortunately, there are many ways to improve resting heart rate, thus improving overall cardiovascular health.

How To Improve Your Resting Heart Rate

This is where cardiovascular exercise comes in handy. A recent study conducted at the University of Lousiville concluded that regular exercise effectively lowers resting heart rate, which reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

We think of cardiovascular exercise as strength training for the heart. Aerobic workouts, like walking, jogging, or swimming, train your body to use oxygen more efficiently, which gradually reduces your resting heart rate and breathing rate — both of which are important factors of cardiovascular health.

A more efficient heart can even help athletes recover quicker between grueling workouts. Plus, it allows many of our physical therapy patients in Chevy Chase and Bethesda to better adapt to the physical demands of their lives.

Final Thoughts

Resting heart rate is an important measure of cardiovascular health. A significantly high resting heart rate often correlates with many health problems such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Conversely, a low resting heart rate indicates a strong, healthy cardiovascular system.

If you’re struggling to improve your resting heart rate, try adding in regular cardiovascular exercise to gradually improve cardiovascular efficiency. Resting heart rate will improve as a byproduct.

If you’d like to work directly with a physical therapist in Chevy Chase or Bethesda to help you with this, please contact us today to schedule a free consultation!

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