Protect Your Heart: Check Your Heart Rate Before You Work Out


If you plan to work out as hard as you can to lose weight or gain muscle, you may want to check your heart rate before you do. Lifting weights, running on a treadmill and even dancing in aerobics class at a high intensity rate can place stress on your heart, especially if you do these activities five to seven days a week. By checking your heart rate, you may get an idea of where you fall on the normal resting heart rate range. In addition, it may help protect you from hidden heart problems like high blood pressure and arrhythmia that can harm your health.

Why Should You Check Your Heart Rate Before Your Exercise Hard?

It's a good idea to check your heart rate before you engage in high-intensity exercises because you could have a hidden heart problem like high blood pressure and arrhythmia. These heart conditions can increase your heart rate even before you exercise. It's important to know that high blood pressure generally leads to arrhythmia. Here's how.

High blood pressure typically develops when the heart needs to pump blood through blocked or damaged arteries. Eating lots of fatty foods, smoking cigarettes and other unhealthy habits can weaken the arteries until they become too loose to support the blood pumped through them. In doing so, the pressure within your arteries increase and triggers the heart to beat abnormally. In addition, the heart doesn't get a chance to rest because it needs to beat continuously to push blood through the damaged arteries. It ends up affecting your normal resting heart rate and the rate you get when you exercise. This is when you develop an arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat.

Resting Rate

A resting heart rate describes how slow or fast your heart beats when your body relaxes. The normal resting heart rate for adult men and women typically falls between 60-100 beats per minute. Your normal resting heart rate may depend on several factors, such as your age, height and weight. Your physician may also base your heart rate on your overall physical condition, as well as your daily living habits.

For instance, if you're a female who weighs 120 pounds, exercises daily and eats right, your normal heart rate may stay around 60-72 beats per minute. This rate may increase dramatically during exercise if you don't do the above things, or if you have a heart condition.

Exercise Rate

When you exercise, your heart rate increases to meet the demands placed on your body. Because your body needs oxygenated blood to keep its organs functioning, muscles warm and brain cells working during exercise, an increased heart rate can be dangerous if you have high blood pressure or arrhythmia. These conditions may cause your heart rate to increase so high that you may:

  • Pass out or lose consciousness
  • Develop heart pain, or numbness in your arms and legs
  • Vomit or feel nauseous

The above symptoms may occur when the heart beats so hard, it overwhelms your blood vessels with blood. Unless you know exactly how strong your heart is, it's critical that you check your heart rate before you attempt to push it and your body beyond their limits.

How Can You Determine Your Resting Heart Rate?

You can help determine your resting heart rate when you follow the simple steps below:

  • Find your pulse: Use your right index and middle fingers to find the pulse on your left wrist. You should feel it just below your palm. Because your heart is located on the left side of your chest, the pulse may be stronger in your left wrist.
  • Count the pulse for 15 seconds: Once you find the pulse or beat, use a timer on your cell phone or wristwatch to count the number of beats you hear for 15 seconds.
  • Calculate the beats: You can find your resting heart rate when you multiply the number of beats you counted for 15 seconds by the number four.

If your resting heart rate is over 100 beats per minute, you should hold off on your intense workouts and see your heart doctor first. Your doctor can check your heart and arteries to see if you have high blood pressure, arrhythmia or some other condition that requires treatment. He or she may perform EKG and blood testing to see how well both tissues work.

Although you want to move forward with your weight loss or weight training plans, it's safer to find out exactly how healthy your heart really is. Be sure to consult with someone who specializes in cardiology if you have concerns or questions about your heart rate.

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