Pulse rate is the palpable feeling over an artery and represents the rate at which the heart is beating. To be more specific, the pulse rate would closely correlate with time of systolic contraction that takes place in the heart and is the pressure wave travelling through the arterial wall as it expands to accommodate the blood projected out during the systolic contraction.
In a normal healthy adult, the pulse rate usually range between 70 – 80 beats per minute and anything beyond 100 beats per minute can be considered a ‘tachycardia’ and anything below 60 beats per minute can be deemed as a ‘bradycardia’. But, having a tachycardia or a bradycardia does not brand a person as having a illness, due to the fact that, heart adapts to its environment and the body needs and therefore the changes seen in the pulse rate may well be a adaptive phenomenon rather than any underlying illness. Thus, it is vital for any of us to know the factors which can affect the heart rate and thereby to help us deduce the abnormal from the normal.
Let us now take a look at these factors which can directly influence the heart rate although there may be exceptions from time to time.
Age : It is apparent that the heart rate gradually lowers from younger age to adulthood and thereafter would gradually rise during the elderly years.
Sex : Females can have a higher heart rate than when compared to their male counterparts.
Exercise : Due to the increased demand from the heart during an exercise process, the heart would adapt to this need and would contract at a higher frequency which gives rise to a rapid pulse. But, in trained athletes, the heart rate might not vary significantly as the body has been trained to tolerate such levels of exertion and would not require a rapid heart rate as would be the case in an untrained individual.
Blood pressure : When the blood pressure goes down, the heart would try to compensate and therefore will increase the heart rate.
Body temperature : It has been studied that, the heart rate can go up at least by 7 – 10 beats with each degree of temperature.
Digestion : During the digestive process, probably due to the high demand for increased circulation in the intestines, the heart would contract faster and therefore would result in a rapid pulse rate.
Emotions : When the emotions are high such as in the case of anxiety, fear, anger and excitement, generally the pulse rate would go up.
Apart from the list that was mentioned above, there are many other factors which can affect the heart rate and would require a medical assessment if it gives rise to any symptoms.