Ask the Pharmacist
by Ron & Marla Chapleau

January 13, 2016


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Q) Whatís a normal heart rate?

A) The term heart rate refers to the number of times your heart beats in a minute. It varies widely from person to person and within an individual depending on their level of exertion at that particular moment.

A normal resting heart rate for an adult ranges from about 60 to 100 beats a minute.

Your heart rate is an easy enough measurement to check. Simply put your index and third fingers either on your neck (to the side of your windpipe) or on your wrist over the radial artery which is located on the thumb side. When you feel your pulse (a term that means the same as heart rate and feels like a slight bump against your fingers) count the beats for 15 seconds then multiply the total by four to get your answer.

In general, a lower heart rate implies that your heart is more efficient and that you have better overall cardiovascular fitness. For example, a world class athlete might have a resting heart rate around 40. However, a low heart rate is not always a sign of good cardiac health. If your rate is consistently below 60 and youíre not in tip top shape, mentioning this to your physician might be worthwhile upon your next visit.

If you are also experiencing other symptoms such as dizziness, fainting or shortness of breath at the same time, you should notify your doctor immediately.

Conversely, if your resting heart rate is consistently over 100, alerting your family doctor would also be a wise idea.

There are many factors that can influence your heart rate including the activity youíre currently engaged in, the air temperature, your body position (i.e. lying down or standing up), medications (including many cough and cold brands), your body size, emotions, your diet (e.g. caffeine can raise it), your level of stress (high stress raises it), whether you are a smoker as well as your overall fitness level as we mentioned earlier.

There are also a number of myths regarding your heart rate that we hear from time to time.

One is that your heart beats at a constant rate. On the contrary, it is in fact fairly common to feel your heart flutter or skip a beat from time to time. When monitored, just about everybodyís readings will display the odd skipped or extra beat. If these sensations are new and/ or more frequent, a visit to your physician is certainly warranted (to rule in or out a group of heart conditions known as the arrhythmias). But if itís once in a while, relax, itís normal for just about everybody.

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Another myth is that if your heart rate is normal, so too must your blood pressure be. There is no simple relationship between your heart rate and blood pressure. One or the other can be at dangerous levels while the other is completely normal.

Another possible myth may well be the numbers I mentioned earlier when I stated what current numbers constitute a normal resting heart rate. More and more research is linking rates above the 90 beats a minute mark with poor health.

Norwegian researchers recently reported that for every 10-beat rise in resting heart rate, the risk of dying from a heart attack rose by 18% in females and 10% in males. As well, a Japanese study linked rates greater than 80 beats a minute with a greater risk of developing heart disease later in life.

As such, standards regarding what constitutes a normal heart rate may be changing in the near future.


For more information about this or any other health related questions, contact the pharmacists at Gordon Pharmasave, Your Health and Wellness Destination, in Kincardine and Port Elgin.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016