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What can your heart rate tell you?

Fitness trackers can be used primarily to count steps, but don’t ignore heart rate indicators. You can learn a lot about your health. The device now provides a variety of heart rate measurements, including resting heart rate, walking speed, and variability (time variability between heart rates). Some can be programmed to notify you of possible problems, such as abnormally high, low, or irregular heart rates. However, without fancy, it can be revealed by just a basic heart rate.

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Heart rate is usually measured as heart rate per minute (bpm). For adults, a healthy resting heart rate ranges from 60 to 100 bpm. “It’s very variable. There’s nothing so-called normal,” says Dr. Michael Snyder, a professor of genetics at Stanford University School of Medicine. For athletes and very healthy people, it can be as low as 40 bpm, according to the American Heart Association. Heart rate usually increases during walking, running, or zoom meetings. Alcohol and altitude increase your heart rate as well as stress.

The ability to continuously monitor heart rate in the clinic rather than once or twice a year is relatively new, and doctors warn that the device is not always accurate. According to cardiologists and researchers, manufacturers often do not disclose the algorithms used or how they tested the data provided by the device.

However, some doctors say that if there is a significant difference between your vacation heart rate and your work heart rate, it may be worth noting. Dr. Yas Moayedi, Cardiologist and Clinical Associate at the University Health Network in Toronto, Canada, said: She says that being in a stressful environment for long periods of time can certainly have consequences.

Even if it is not accurate, it can reveal a directional heart rate pattern. Dr. Moayedi experienced it first hand when his heart rate reached 120 bpm on the day of his speech. What worried her most was not the unusually high rate, but the high consistency of reading. Heart rate usually fluctuates throughout the day and is affected by physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. She was pregnant and found to be so severely iron deficient that she needed an injection. “My heart was compensating by beating very fast so that it could meet the demands of my body,” she says.

“When you get sick, your heart rate changes almost always,” says Dr. Snyder. “I think it’s better than measuring body temperature, especially for coronaviruses.” In a study published in Nature in November, He and other researchers found that 26 of the 32 study subjects infected with Covid-19 had elevated heart rates 9 days before symptoms. In most cases, the increase was extreme. Dr. Snyder’s own rise in heart rate warned him of Lyme disease.

Can your heart rate metric help you get healthy? All types of sports reduced the resting heart rate of healthy people, and endurance training and yoga significantly reduced it in both men and women. According to a review of 191 studies published in December 2018 It is published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine. How much exercise you need to lower your heart rate depends on the person, says Dr. Snyder. “Many people say they get 20 minutes of good workouts every day, but not all of this exercise business works.”

Dr. Harlan Krumholtz, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at Yale University, said fitness trackers may be useful in assessing patients with palpitations and fast heart rates, but have not been sufficiently studied to make individual recommendations. I am.

“I’m not trying to track your heart rate and lower it by 10 points,” he says. Instead, his advice is to move in general: “more activity is better than less activity.”

Write to Betsy Morris betsy.morris@wsj.com

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What can your heart rate tell you?

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