Heart Rate vs. Blood Pressure: What You Need to Know

Your heart rate and blood pressure measure two different things, but doctors can use both of them to evaluate certain aspects of your health. The heart rate records the number of times that your heart beats per minute, while your blood pressure quantifies how strong your blood moves through the blood vessels.

Does Your Heart Rate Affect Your Blood Pressure?

Your heart rate and your blood pressure do not automatically increase at the same rate. It’s possible for your heart rate to safely increase twice as much as the normal heart rate while your blood pressure only increases a minimal amount. In fact, even when your heart beats above the normal number of times per minute, healthy blood vessels can become larger for easier blood flow. For instance, your heart rate increases when you exercise which helps more blood to reach your muscles.

Aside from physical activities, your heart rate may also be affected by air temperature, your emotions, your body position, your body size and use of medications.

How Can You Measure Your Heart Rate?

You can easily check your heart rate, whether you’re exercising or doing your normal chores, by wearing an activity tracker. But if you don’t use one, you can also measure it manually by doing the following:

1. Put the two fingertips of your middle and forefinger on top of the inside of your wrist to feel the pulse.

2. Press your fingertips lightly over the artery.

3. Count the number of your pulse for 10 seconds and multiply it by six to find your heart rate.

You may also find a pulse and measure your heart rate on the side of your neck, the inside of your elbow or the top of your foot.

What Is Your Target and Maximum Heart Rate?

A person’s maximum heart rate is about 220 minus their age. But it’s good to know that your target heart rate may vary depending on the intensity of your physical activities. The target heart rate while doing moderate intensity exercises is about 50-70% of your maximum heart rate and about 70-85% of the maximum heart rate for high intensity activities. You may refer to the chart below for the target heart rate and maximum heart rate per age group.

Note: Bpm refers to beats per minute. If you have a heart condition or are taking medications, please ask your doctor to determine your target and maximum heart rate.

Age Target Heart Rate
(50-85% of the Maximum Heart Rate)
Average Maximum Heart Rate
20 100-170 bpm 200 bpm
30 95-162 bpm 190 bpm
35 93-157 bpm 185 bpm
40 90-153 bpm 180 bpm
45 88-149 bpm 175 bpm
50 85-145 bpm 170 bpm
55 83-140 bpm 165 bpm
60 80-136 bpm 160 bpm
65 78-132 bpm 155 bpm
70 75-128 bpm 150 bpm

What Is the Normal Blood Pressure Level?

While your blood pressure varies throughout the day based on the intensity of your activities, your doctor may diagnose you with high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, if your blood pressure is consistently higher than the normal levels. Having a higher blood pressure may increase your risk for conditions such as heart attack, heart disease and/or stroke. Read this article to understand more about your blood pressure numbers.

Final Thoughts

If you’re exercising and you noticed that your heart rate is too high, slow down because you’re straining. If your heart rate is too low though, you may try to increase the intensity of your workout, especially if your goal is to lose weight. For starters, you may aim for 50% of the maximum heart rate for your age and gradually build up. Always talk with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.

If you have frequent episodes of a very low or unexplained fast heart rate that makes you feel dizzy, weak or causes fainting, please schedule an appointment with your doctor as this may indicate a health condition.

American Heart Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Journal of the American College of Cardiology

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