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Myriad factors affect our heart rate, including our age, medical conditions, medications, diet, and fitness level. So, what is normal? Surprisingly, there are over twelve places you can feel your pulse. The best way to measure heart rate is to sit down for a few minutes and relax, then use two fingers not your thumb, as its own pulse can confuse your measurement to gently compress the artery and count the beats over 15 seconds. Multiplying this by four will give your heart rate in beats per minute. Your heart runs on electricity — in fact, every single heartbeat is the result of a tiny electrical impulse travelling through your heart muscle.

These impulses can be measured using an an electrocardiogram ECG , which is the most reliable and informative measure of your heart rate. The test is non-invasive, painless, and you can get it at most GP practices and pathology services. Wearable devices such as smartwatches use light , rather than pressure, to measure heart rate. As the volume of small arteries in the wrist transiently increase with each heart beat, the amount of light reflected back to a conductor in the watch changes — and the frequency with which these fluctuations occur is the heart rate.

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The Speed of the Beat of My Heart Lyrics

Read more: How reliable is your wearable heart-rate monitor? As an adult, the normal range for resting heart rate is 60 to beats per minute. This applies for anyone over the age of 17 — infants and children have faster heart rates due to their smaller body and heart size.

A normal person pumps around five to six litres per minute, and an average person can get up to 20 litres a minute while exercising — athletes can even go as high as This a chemical in the brain that causes drowsiness and slows heart rate. But in the modern day it tends to be activated more when we have a difficult conversation at work, or watch Game of Thrones.

Arrhythmia or dysrhythmia

A faster heart rate alerts doctors the infection is severe. Atrial fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia, where the pulse becomes irregular, and can cause symptoms such as palpitations, shortness of breath and light-headedness. One of its more serious complications is stroke. Read more: Getting to the heart of the matter on stroke. Heart block occurs when the electrical signals, which originate at the top of the heart in the atria, are not conducted properly to the ventricles at the bottom of the heart.

This can be life-threatening, as although the ventricles have an intrinsic backup system to beat at approximately 40 beats per minute, this can fail and cause the heart to stop completely. There are various types of heart block, which range in severity from no symptoms at all to frequent blackouts or sudden death. Those at the more severe end of the spectrum may need a pacemaker to stimulate the heart to beat. But an early beat also empties the heart early, leaving extra filling time afterward.

So on the second beat after the VPB, the heart is extra full and pumps more blood to the body than it should. To compensate properly, the heart rate slows down. A healthy heart will alternately speed up and slow down to compensate for the over- and under-filling that follows a VPB until the amount of blood filling the heart returns to normal.

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Stein and colleagues analyzed Holter monitor recordings for almost 1, patients over age 65 recorded between and The patients were divided into three groups based on an assessment of their cardiovascular health. Those in the "clinical" group had a history of cardiovascular disease such as heart attack or surgery to open narrow blood vessels.

Those in the "subclinical" group had traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure or diabetes but had never been treated for cardiovascular disease. And those in the "healthy" group had no evidence of clinical or subclinical disease. In all three groups, abnormal heart rate turbulence was predictive of cardiac death. But the association was especially strong in the healthy group. Of the patients classified as healthy, 21 had abnormal heart rate turbulence.

Speed, Power, Heart Rate and Fitness

These 21 people were almost eight times more likely to die of cardiac causes than the rest of the healthy group. In fact, over the next 12 years, the people in the healthy group with abnormal heart rate turbulence had worse survival than the people with subclinical disease but good heart rate turbulence.


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But the conventional risk factors don't pick it up. Stein and her colleagues also looked at levels of C-reactive protein, a measure of inflammation associated with cardiovascular disease. While C-reactive protein predicted cardiac death in the healthy group, it had no impact in the subclinical and clinical groups. Since heart rate turbulence was predictive in all three groups, it may prove better than C-reactive protein in predicting risk of cardiovascular death.

Though the Holter monitor is a common, noninvasive device, Stein says the software needed to measure heart rate turbulence is only available for clinical use on one commercial Holter monitor.


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She speculates that this work and other studies showing the value of measuring heart rate turbulence may make the software more widely available. Materials provided by Washington University School of Medicine. Original written by Julia Evangelou Strait.

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Note: Content may be edited for style and length. Science News. Stein "These are people we do not expect to die of cardiac causes," says Phyllis K.