When at the doctor’s office, you will often hear numbers for both your heart rate (HR) and blood pressure (BP). While you may hear these numbers quite often, you may not always understand what those numbers mean. Since February is American Heart Month this is a great time to give our hearts a little extra love (pun intended, ha) and discuss these important numbers. Here is a quick overview of what you need to know about your HR and BP.
HR is simply the amount of times that your heart beats per minute (BPM). Most often it is taken when you are at rest (for your resting HR) and can be a good indicator of your cardiovascular fitness. The normal range for our resting HR is between 60-100 BPM. Typically, the lower the number for our HR indicates an individual who is in better cardio health. For those who are highly trained, their resting HR can even be from 40-60 BPM. This can be something that you track yourself very easily. Today, most smart watches and some cellphones have features that allow you to measure your HR. It is often best to take multiple measurements to be sure the reading is accurate and then take the average of those numbers to get your resting HR. When measuring your resting HR, be sure to avoid caffeine and exercise which may affect your results. If you do not have something that reads your HR, it is easy to take on your own as well. Simply find the space between your windpipe and tendons in your neck with your index and middle finger, and count the pulses/beats you feel for 10 seconds and multiply that number by 6 for your resting HR.
Blood pressure is a little more difficult to check yourself but does not mean you shouldn’t know what those numbers mean. Your BP is another measure of your cardiovascular health, and is the pressure measured within your arteries. The normal range for our BP is ideally below 120/80. Anything above those number is considered elevated to varying degrees but talk with your doctor for more info on what that may mean for you. The first number is the pressure when your heart beats, and the second number is the pressure when your heart is resting between beats. Again, the lower the number typically indicates a better state of cardiovascular health.
If you are interested in taking your own BP, here is a link to a video that explains how to do this yourself: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/multimedia/how-to-measure-blood-pressure/vid-20084748.
It is always important to be knowledgeable about your own health, so I hope that this short post helps you understand a little bit more when you are at the doctor!