How to Lower Resting Heart Rate

Three Methods:Assessing Your Heart RateExercising for a Lower Resting Heart RateMaking Lifestyle Changes

Your heart rate, or pulse, is the measurement of heart beats per minute, or how hard the heart is working to circulate blood throughout your body. Your resting heart rate refers to the body's lowest heart rate, when your body is close to absolute rest. Knowing your resting heart rate can help you to assess your overall health and condition and help you set heart rate targets. Lowering your resting heart rate can significantly reduce your risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Method 1
Assessing Your Heart Rate

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    Know your current resting heart rate. Before you start taking action to try to lower your resting heart rate, it's important to know what your starting point is. To do this you just need to take your pulse and count the beats. You can do this at the carotid artery (in the neck) or at the wrist.
    • Be sure that you are resting and relaxed before you start.
    • The best time to do it is before you get out of bed in the morning.[1]
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    Take your pulse. To take your pulse at the carotid artery, place your index and middle finger tips lightly on one side of your neck, to the side of your windpipe. Press gently until you find the pulse. To get the most accurate reading, count the number of beats in 60 seconds.[2]
    • Alternatively count the beats in 10 seconds and multiply by six, or 15 seconds and multiply by four.
    • To measure your pulse at the wrist, place one hand palm up.
    • With the other hand, place the tips of your index, middle and ring fingers below the base of your thumb until you feel the pulse.
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    Alternatively, if you have a stethoscope, you can evaluate your resting heart rate with it. Lift up or remove your shirt to expose the bare skin, place the earpieces in your ears, hold the stethoscope against your chest and listen in. Count the number of beats per minute as you listen.
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    Evaluate your resting heart rate. Once you have discovered your resting heart rate you need to find out where it is along the scale of healthy and unhealthy. A normal resting heart rate should be between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm).[3] A rate of more than 90 is, however, considered high.[4]
    • If your heart rate is lower than 60 bpm and you also have the following symptoms —dizziness, shortness of breath and tunnel vision — then you should be evaluated by a doctor.
    • The resting heart rate of well trained endurance athletes can be between 40 and 60 bpm.[5] They will not, however, experience the adverse symptoms, such as dizziness.
    • Test your rate over a few days to get an average.
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    Know when to see your doctor. A high resting heart rate isn't an immediate danger, but can lead to longer term health problems. In these cases you should gradually lower your resting heart rate through exercise.[6] But if you have a very low pulse, or frequent bouts of unexplained fast heart rates, particularly if these are coupled with dizziness, speak to a doctor.[7]
    • Generally if a high heart rate is combined with other symptoms you should visit a doctor.
    • Account for common causes such as caffeine intake, before you go to the doctors.[8]
    • Speak to your doctor if you are on any medications that might be affecting your heart rate, such as beta blockers.

Method 2
Exercising for a Lower Resting Heart Rate

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    Introduce regular exercise. The best way to gradually and safely lower your resting heart rate is to introduce regular aerobic exercise into your routine. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends healthy adults get 150 minutes moderate intensity aerobic activity (brisk walking) per week and muscle strengthening activity 2 days or more per week. Muscle strengthening activities should work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).[9]
    • For a healthier heart, aim for 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise three or four times a week.
    • Include stretching and flexibility exercises such as yoga.
    • Try to combine this with muscle strengthening exercises twice a week.[10]
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    Determine your maximum heart rate. To really target your resting heart rate, you can tailor your exercise routine so that you aim for a target heart rate when you are exercising. This way you can track the intensity of the exercise and how hard your heart is working, gradually increasing it as you become fitter. To do this you need to determine your maximum heart rate. All of the safe methods for this are approximations, but they can give you a general picture.
    • One basic method is just subtract your age from 220.[11]
    • So if you are 30, your maximum heart rate will be approximately 190 beats per minute.
    • This method is considered more accurate for those under 40.
    • A slightly more complicated recent method is to multiply your age by 0.7, and then subtract that figure from 208.
    • With this technique a 40-year-old has a maximum heart rate of 180 (208 - 0.7 x 40).[12]
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    Determine your target heart rate zone. Once you know an approximate value for your maximum heart rate you can determine the target heart rate zones for your exercise. By exercising within your target heart rate zone you can keep better track of how hard your heart is working and organise your exercise regime more precisely.
    • As a general rule heart rate during moderate activities is about 50-69% of your maximum heart rate. When you are first starting to work out, you should aim to keep your heart rate in this, the lower range of your target zone.[13]
    • Hard and vigorous activity will be between 70 and 85% of your maximum.[14] You should gradually work up to working out at this level — it should take about six months to safely and comfortably reach this point if you are just beginning to exercises.[15]
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    Monitor your heart rate during exercise. To keep track of your heart rate during exercise just take your pulse at your wrist or neck. Count for fifteen seconds and multiply the number by four. When you are exercising you want to keep your heart rate between 50% and 85% of your maximum. If you are dropping down, try to up the intensity.[16]
    • If you are relatively new to exercise, increase gradually. You will still reap the benefits and will be less likely to sustain injury or to become discouraged.[17]
    • Be sure to stop exercising for a moment while you take your pulse.

Method 3
Making Lifestyle Changes

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    Combine your exercise with a healthy diet. Being overweight makes your heart work harder to pump blood around your body. If you are overweight linking your exercise regime with a healthy diet will help to lose weight and relieve some of the stress on your heart, which in turn will lower your resting heart rate.[18]
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    Avoid tobacco. As well as all the other damage tobacco does to your body, smokers are known to have higher resting heart rates than non-smokers. Cutting down or preferably quitting smoking will help to lower your heart rate and improve the healthiness of your heart.[19]
    • Nicotine constricts blood vessels and causes damage to heart muscles and vasculature. Quitting smoking can greatly improve blood pressure, circulation and overall health as well as decrease risk for cancer and breathing problems.
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    Cut down on caffeine. Caffeine and caffeine products such as coffee and tea are well-known to increase heart rate.[20] If you think you have a slightly high resting heart rate, lowering your caffeine intake can help to reduce it.[21]
    • More than two cups of coffee a day can contribute to side effects including an increased heart rate.[22]
    • Decaffeinated drinks can help you lower your caffeine intake.
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    Avoid alcohol. Alcohol intake has been connected to increased heart rates and higher average heart rates. Cutting down on the amount of alcohol you consume can help you to lower your resting heart rate.[23]
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    Reduce stress. Reducing the amount of stress you experience isn't necessarily easy, but it can help you to lower your resting heart rate over time. Stress in extreme amounts can have a negative impact on your health. Practice some activities that help you to relax such, as meditation or tai chi.[24] Try to dedicate a little time each day for a period of relaxation and deep breathing.
    • Everyone is different so find what relaxes you.
    • Maybe it will be listening to calming music, or taking a long bath.


  • Some medications, as well as caffeine and nicotine, may raise your resting heart rate. Your doctor can best assess the effect of a medication versus its benefits.
  • Consult your doctor about your overall health. Your resting heart rate is only one measurement of your cardiac health. Your doctor may want to suggest additional tests.

Things You'll Need

  • Watch or clock with a second hand or stopwatch.

Sources and Citations

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Article Info

Categories: Cardiovascular Health and Blood Pressure