There are various diagnostic procedures that can provide insight into your cardiovascular health and cardiovascular disease risk.
However, there are also certain biometrics that you can track right at home on a daily basis that can provide a window into the health of your cardiovascular system, one of which is your resting heart rate.
Research suggests that a higher resting heart rate is associated with an increased risk of adverse cardiovascular events and all-cause mortality. For this reason, many people seek strategies for how to lower resting heart rate.
So, what are the best tips for how to get a lower resting heart rate? How long does it take to lower resting heart rate? Are there any legitimate strategies for how to lower resting heart rate immediately?
In this article, we will discuss what the normal resting heart rate is for adults, the factors that affect resting heart rate, and how to lower resting heart rate levels if you have a high resting heart rate.
We will cover the following:
- What Is Resting Heart Rate?
- How Do You Measure Your Resting Heart Rate?
- Is My Resting Heart Rate Too High?
- How to Lower Resting Heart Rate
Let’s dive in!
What Is Resting Heart Rate?
As the term implies, resting heart rate refers to your heart rate at rest or the number of times your heart beats per minute when you are lying down or sitting still comfortably after a long period of time.
How Do You Measure Your Resting Heart Rate?
There are different ways to measure your resting heart rate, such as wearing a chest strap heart rate monitor, wearing a fitness watch with a wrist-based heart rate monitor, or manually taking your pulse to count your resting heart rate.
To do so, locate your pulse on the inner surface of your wrist or along your carotid artery on the side of your neck.
You can also gently place your hand over your heart, but this can be a difficult area to feel your pulse if you have significant breast tissue, body fat, or muscle mass overlying your chest.
Place your index finger and middle finger lightly along whichever pulse site you select. Be sure not to press firmly into the blood vessel, or you may occlude blood flow and alter your pulse.
Once you have located your pulse, look at your watch or start a timer.
Ideally, count the number of beats you feel in a minute, or you can count for 30 seconds and multiply the number of heartbeats you get by two to determine your resting heart rate in beats per minute (bpm).
During exercise, you usually only want to count your pulse for 15 seconds and multiply by four because your heart rate during vigorous physical activity is more sensitive to changes in intensity level.
This means that it’s prone to drop quickly after exercise, so if you count for longer than 15 seconds, the estimated exercise heart rate when you extrapolate it out might be lower because it will already be slowing down.
You can improve the accuracy of your resting heart rate measurements by taking the heart rate first thing in the morning before getting out of bed.
Be consistent with your measurements so that you take them every day at the same time, and record your resting heart rate readings so that you can get a better sense if you need to try methods for lowering resting heart rate.
It’s especially important to take your resting heart rate before doing any kind of exercise, drinking coffee or caffeinated tea, smoking a cigarette, or taking medications like beta blockers, stimulants, or antihistamines.
Nicotine and caffeine are both stimulants, as are some allergy medications, so they can increase your heart rate, and many blood pressure medications lower resting heart rate.
There are also other conditions besides poor cardiovascular health and physical conditioning that can cause a higher resting heart rate.
Examples include anemia, thyroid conditions, and infections.
If you’re concerned about underlying medical issues, speak with your healthcare provider for further testing.
Is My Resting Heart Rate Too High?
Before we discuss various strategies for how to lower resting heart rate levels, it’s important to establish what the normal resting heart rate is for adults to help you determine if you need to try to lower your resting heart rate.
According to the American Heart Association, the normal resting heart rate for adults is typically between 60 and 100 beats per minute.
In most cases, if your resting heart rate is already below 50 to 60 bpm, it might be contraindicated to deliberately try to employ strategies for how to lower resting heart rate immediately. There may be issues if your resting heart rate is too low.
Even if your resting heart rate falls within the “normal resting heart rate range,” you may want to try some of the tips for how to decrease your resting heart rate naturally.
For example, if your average resting heart rate consistently hovers in the 80 to 100 bpm range, there may be some lifestyle modifications you can employ that will help lower your resting heart rate naturally to help improve your cardiovascular health.
If your resting heart rate is around 100 bpm or more, you should speak with your doctor for further evaluation and physician-guided advice on how to decrease your resting heart rate more significantly.
How to Lower Resting Heart Rate
There are certain strategies that may help decrease your resting heart.
But, how long does it take to lower resting heart rate?
Certain strategies may potentially help lower resting heart rate immediately, whereas most are lifestyle changes that may help improve cardiovascular health and that naturally lower your resting heart rate over time.
The single best thing you can do to lower your resting heart rate is to get consistent aerobic exercise.
Consistent aerobic exercise improves the efficiency and health of the cardiovascular system, strengthening the heart muscle directly but also decreasing blood pressure, increasing the elasticity of your blood vessels, building new capillaries, and improving other cardiovascular disease risk factors.
As the heart muscle becomes stronger, the blood vessels become more elastic, the tidal volume of your lungs increases, and your muscles become more efficient at using oxygen, your resting heart rate will decrease significantly.
This is why athletes have lower resting heart rates than sedentary adults.
You should strive to meet the guidelines for physical activity for adults set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the British Heart Foundation, which are to accumulate either 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio exercise per week.
#2: Get Enough Sleep
According to the Cleveland Clinic, getting enough sleep every night isn’t only important for optimizing your overall health, but it can also be an effective strategy for how to lower resting heart rate levels.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should get 7–9 hours of sleep every night for optimal health.
#3: Try Meditation
Engaging in a daily mindfulness meditation practice can be an effective way to lower your average resting heart rate.
Mindfulness meditation can reduce stress and help the body deal with acute and chronic stress, helping keep resting heart rate levels low when you are going through difficult times.
Consider using a mindfulness meditation app like Balance or Calm.
#4: Get a Massage
Massage may be useful in stimulating the vagus nerve.
This, in turn, may trigger parasympathetic nervous system activation and quiet, sympathetic nervous system dominance.
The parasympathetic nervous system is the “rest and digest nervous system.”
It helps have a calming or slowing effect on autonomic processes such as resting heart rate.
#5: Cut Back On Caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant, so it causes an elevation in your resting heart rate. If you find that you have a high resting heart rate, you should try cutting back on caffeine.
Try to have no more than one cup of coffee per day if you are trying to maintain a lower resting heart rate.
#6: Stop Smoking
Smoking can have a deleterious effect on your entire cardiovascular system, causing your heart and lungs to have to work significantly harder to oxygenate the tissues of your body, which can cause a chronically higher resting heart rate.
Cigarettes also contain nicotine, which is a stimulant that can directly increase resting heart rate.
One of the best things you can do for your heart health is to quit smoking.
#7: Lose Weight
If you are overweight or obese, losing excess body weight can help decrease your resting heart rate. The larger your body size, the harder your heart has to work to deliver oxygenated blood to your entire body.
In fact, according to Dr. Kopecky at the Mayo Clinic, for every extra pound of fat, the body develops a whopping five miles of blood vessels. “If your heart beats 100,000 times a day, that’s 500,000 miles a day for one pound of fat,” says Dr. Kopecky.
Therefore, safely losing excess body fat through diet and exercise will reduce the workload on the heart and significantly cut back on the blood vessel circuit length.
This, in turn, will help decrease resting heart rate.
There you have it! Our seven helpful tips for how to get a lower resting heart rate.
For more information about another heart related-metric that can provide insight into your cardiovascular health and disease risk, check out our article on heart rate recovery here.