Five things your heart rate is trying to tell you

February 22, 2017 Providence Health Team

Are you out of shape? Stressed? Dehydrated? In other words, how’s your health? The answer may be literally at your fingertips.

By taking your own pulse, you can estimate your heart rate. And that can give you some helpful information about your health.

To take your pulse, place your index and middle fingers together on one of your major arteries, either beside your windpipe or on the inside of your wrist, as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Count the beats for 10 seconds, then multiply by six to get an estimate of how many times your heart beats per minute.

What might your heart rate be saying? It could be:

1. You need to relax

Stress is one way to get your heart pumping at a high speed, but why is that? When your body is pumping adrenaline because, for example, you're nervous or in a high-stress situation, your heart rate rises. But if you're suffering from chronic or long-term stress, your heart rate can remain elevated, potentially leading to heart problems.

2. You should start exercising regularly

If you've spent your life avoiding the treadmill, you may find that your heart has to work a bit harder to pump blood on a regular basis, especially when you're doing any sort of cardio workout. If you have an elevated heart rate, you may need to start working exercise into your daily routine. Start out with regular walking or jogging, five minutes here and there throughout your day, possibly mixed in with some jump training (plyometrics). The point is to raise your heart rate. People in great shape, especially those who run regularly, often find that their resting heart rate is on the low end of normal since their heart doesn't have to work as hard to perform day-to-day functions.

3. You're at risk for diabetes (or already have it)

A high heart rate may be an indicator of diabetes. If you’re sedentary, or inactive, you are at risk for diabetes and you also may have an elevated heart rate. Taking your pulse regularly can help you see if your heart rate is consistently high. If it is, talk to your health care provider. You can find a Providence provider in our directory.

4. Your body isn't getting enough water

Many people don't know that your pulse can indicate whether or not you're dehydrated. If your body needs water, your heart may be struggling to pump blood through your body, causing you to feel sluggish. This results in a higher heart rate, as your heart isn't working as efficiently as it would be if your body was properly hydrated.

5. The caffeine has kicked in

If you just went through a couple cups of coffee or are pushing through the afternoon slump courtesy of energy drinks, you may have noticed that your heart beat has kicked up a notch. If you find that you're regularly experiencing an intense or quickened heart rate, try laying off the caffeine for a while. If you don’t notice any changes, speak with your health care provider. It's possible that the abnormal rhythm could be caused by something else.

Your heart rate is easy to monitor and provides plenty of insight into your overall cardiovascular health. If you have experience or tips with monitoring your pulse, please comment below.

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