How much time do you spend thinking about your heart?  Unless you’ve recently had a heart attack or some other heart related problem, the answer is probably ‘not much’. However, it’s important to understand the basics of heart health if you want to maximize your overall health.

With that in mind, here are the basics:

Opinions vary somewhat on what a healthy, normal heart rate is. Generally speaking, it’s somewhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute, and some experts peg the range between 50 and 70.  Slower than that, and doctors will refer to your heartbeat as bradycardia (Slow heart).  Faster than that, and they’ll use the term tachycardia (fast heart).

When you exercise rigorously, it will cause your heart rate to increase to 70-80 percent of your maximum heart rate.  To determine your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from the number 220.  If you’re 40 years old, your maximum heart rate should be 180.  70-80  percent of this gives you a range of 126 to 144.  If your heart rate exceeds this during rigorous exercise, it’s a sign that there’s a problem.

If your heart rate is abnormal, you could see a wide range of symptoms, depending on whether your heart is beating faster or more slowly than it should be.

If you have a slower heartbeat than normal, you may see things like:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fatigue

If your heart rate is above normal, you may see symptoms like:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness in your chest
  • Palpitations or a fluttering sensation in your chest
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fatigue

In either case, it is a cause for alarm and you should see your doctor immediately.  Granted, these symptoms may well be caused by something other than your heart rate, but it simply doesn’t pay to take any chances!