How to Lower Heart Rate & Improve Health

Your heart rate is one important measure of heart health. Heart rate indicates how well your heart delivers oxygen-rich blood to the rest of your body. In general, a lower resting heart rate (measured when you are not active) means that your heart is healthier and more efficient.

This article discusses resting heart rate and lifestyle changes to help you achieve a lower resting heart rate and overall better health.

a person looking at their smart watch screen on their wrist

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Finding Your Heart Rate

Resting heart rate is measured by taking your pulse. For the best results, take your pulse first thing in the morning when you wake up, while you're still in bed.

To take your pulse, find your heartbeat at the side of your neck or the thumb side of your wrist. Place the pads of your index and middle fingers gently over the artery. Once you feel your heartbeat, count the number of beats for 60 seconds. You can count for 15 seconds and multiply by four, or count for 30 seconds and multiply by two, but counting for a full minute is most accurate.

Normal Resting Heart Rate

Normal resting heart rate for adults is between 60 to 100 beats per minute. However, many factors influence heart rate. For example, if you're under a lot of stress, your resting heart rate will be higher. If you're a well-trained endurance athlete, your resting heart rate could be much lower than average—40 or 50 beats per minute.

Certain medications can also affect your resting heart rate, including calcium channel blockers and beta blockers. These medications lower heart rate, and are prescribed to treat conditions such as chest pain, abnormal heart rhythms, and high blood pressure.

Is My Heart Rate Too High?

A persistently elevated resting heart rate can be an important sign of a host of underlying medical conditions, including (but not limited to):

  • Cardiac (heart), pulmonary (lung), and neurological (brain and nervous system) conditions
  • Infections
  • Inflammation
  • Anemias (conditions characterized by a drop in red blood cells)
  • Vascular disease (conditions that affect the blood vessels, including peripheral artery disease, coronary artery disease, carotid disease, and more)
  • Endocrine and autoimmune diseases, such as hypo- and hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto's, Graves' disease, thyroid cancer, and more

If you are experiencing a persistently elevated resting heart rate, you should always be evaluated by your healthcare provider as a first step.

When to Seek Immediate Medical Attention

A high heart rate can be a symptom of a heart attack. This is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. Additional symptoms of heart attack include:

  • Chest pain
  • Chest pressure
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Jaw, neck, or arm pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold, clammy skin

Why Would My Heart Rate Be High?

Tachycardia is a condition that describes a heart rate that is too high—typically more than 100 beats per minute. If your heart rate is higher than normal, there could be several reasons.

Medical conditions can cause tachycardia. Electrical impulses in your heart cause it to beat. Abnormal firing of these electrical signals can cause an increased heart rate. Tachycardia can also occur with high blood pressure, lung conditions, blood clots, or too much thyroid hormone in the body.

Stress is another culprit. When you experience stress, your body triggers a "fight or flight" response. Part of this response is an increased heart rate. If you feel stressed out a lot of the time, your resting heart rate can stay elevated. A high heart rate can also occur from caffeine, alcohol, smoking, and other controllable lifestyle behaviors.

Try These Tips to Lower Your Heart Rate

Making some changes to your lifestyle habits can lower your heart rate and also decrease your overall risk for heart disease.

Get Some Exercise

Exercising on a regular basis will improve your heart's efficiency, lowering your resting heart rate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week. Thirty minutes of brisk walking five days a week will meet this recommendation.

Reduce Stress

Reducing your stress level can decrease your heart rate. Stress management techniques can include:

  • Yoga or stretching exercises
  • Reading a book
  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Chewing gum
  • Deep breathing
  • Listening to music
  • Going for a walk
  • Squeezing a stress ball
  • Talking to a therapist

Change Your Diet

What you eat can contribute to a higher heart rate. Salt (sodium) in particular can negatively affect your heart.

The average American consumes 4,000 milligrams of sodium per day. You might be in this category even if you don't "salt" your food. Pay attention to food labels—large amounts of sodium are present in processed and frozen foods.

The upper limit for adults for daily sodium intake should be no more than 2,300 milligrams per day. If you've got high blood pressure, this recommendation drops to 1,500 milligrams per day.

Stop Smoking

Smoking increases resting heart rate, and the more you smoke, the more it impacts your heart. Giving up smoking can be a difficult process, but with a plan, you can be successful.

  • Understand why you're quitting: Stopping smoking not only improves heart health but also improves your lungs and ability to breathe.
  • Set a target date: Pick the day that you will quit smoking.
  • Avoid triggers: Chances are, you are more tempted to smoke in certain environments or around specific people. Make alternate plans (when possible) while you are quitting.
  • Manage nicotine withdrawal: Talk to your doctor about options to help decrease symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
  • Find support: Tell your family and friends about your goal. Seek additional encouragement from a support group.

Avoid Caffeine

Consuming caffeine can increase your heart rate. Avoid caffeinated coffee and other beverages that contain caffeine such as energy drinks, soda, and teas. Dietary supplements also commonly include caffeine—be sure to check product labels.

Stay Hydrated

When you are dehydrated, there is less blood circulating through your body. As a result, your heart has to beat faster to keep your blood pumping. Dehydration can also cause other negative symptoms, such as dizziness, dry mouth, and muscle cramps. In general, adults should drink four to six cups of water per day. If you are well-hydrated, your urine should be pale and clear.

Get Your Sleep

Lack of sleep can have a negative effect on your heart health. Not only can your heart rate increase if you are chronically sleep-deprived, but your blood pressure stays elevated as well. In general, adults need at least seven hours of sleep each night.

If you have difficulty sleeping, try these tips:

  • Avoid electronics and TV close to bedtime
  • Exercise during the day
  • Get some sun
  • Set and follow a sleep schedule
  • Use room-darkening window shades

Summary

High heart rate can be caused by many different factors, including stress, medical conditions, and lifestyle behaviors such as smoking and dehydration. Heart rate can be lowered with regular physical activity, adequate sleep, healthy diet, and avoiding smoking and excess caffeine.

If your heart rate is higher than average, talk to your healthcare provider. In some cases, a higher resting heart rate can be considered "normal." They can help you determine whether other medical conditions or lifestyle habits are contributing to your heart rate. In some cases, medication is needed to address your high heart rate.

A Word From Verywell

Finding out your heart rate is above average can be alarming. The important thing to remember is that many factors can affect your heart rate, and most of them are changeable. You have the ability to alter your lifestyle choices and improve your heart rate. Ask your loved ones to help hold you accountable and provide support as you make the changes that are right for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is considered a dangerously high heart rate?

    There's no specific heart rate that is considered "dangerous." However, if your heart rate is consistently above 100 beats per minute, talk to your doctor. Seek immediate medical attention if you have additional symptoms, such as shortness of breath.

  • Can anxiety increase your heart rate?

    Stress and anxiety are common causes of a high heart rate.

  • How can you lower your heart rate immediately?

    Several physical maneuvers exist to lower heart rate quickly, but they can be dangerous. Stop your activity and take some deep breaths to slow your heart rate gradually.

10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Harvard Health Publishing. Want to check your heart rate? Here's how.

  2. American Heart Association. Tachycardia: fast heart rate.

  3. Harvard Health Publishing. Tachycardia.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How much physical activity do adults need?.

  5. University of Colorado Boulder. 25 quick ways to reduce stress.

  6. American Heart Association. Shaking the salt habit to lower high blood pressure.

  7. Linneberg A, Jacobsen RK, Skaaby T, et al. Effect of smoking on blood pressure and resting heart rateCirc Cardiovasc Gene. 2015;8(6):832-841. doi:10.1161/CIRCGENETICS.115.001225

  8. The Heart Foundation. The importance of water.

  9. Harvard Health Publishing. How much water should you drink?

  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How does sleep affect your heart health?

By Aubrey Bailey, PT, DPT, CHT
Aubrey Bailey is a physical therapist and professor of anatomy and physiology with over a decade of experience providing in-person and online education for medical personnel and the general public, specializing in the areas of orthopedic injury, neurologic diseases, developmental disorders, and healthy living.