Our hearts serve as quite a wondrous organ in our bodies. Located slightly off-center and usually to the left side in the upper portion of the chest, this muscle expands and contracts continuously for the course of our entire lives. The heart is responsible for pumping blood and oxygen throughout our entire bodies. Should this process stop for about a half hour or so, we’re pretty much toast. That’s right. Dead. In the event that this condition (known as cardiac arrest) occurs, the brain rapidly becomes deprived of oxygen in a matter of minutes, and so it becomes essential to get this organ restored to that continuous rhythm as soon as possible.
This normal rhythm, which consists of the number of times the muscle expands and contracts in the time span of one minute is referred to as our heart rate. Some medical professionals will tell us that an adult’s normal heart rate at rest is between 60-80 beats a minute, while others will say 60-100 beats is okay. People who don’t exercise tend to have heart rates on the high end of the spectrum while those who are decidedly athletic will be on the low end.
Some people simply have faster or slower heart rates than others; no matter what they do. Babies and small children will have faster rates (about 120) because their heart muscles are smaller.
However, and whichever parameters listed above describes your typical heart rate, there are times and situations that will cause it to significantly increase. Here are some examples:
If you happen to be engaged in something like a spirited game of tennis, this rate can double. During strenuous exercise, such as that aforementioned tennis match, running, climbing stairs or steep hills, lifting heavy amounts of weight , or any other type of activity that requires lots of energy and/or bodily strength, the heart must work harder to supply our bodies with oxygen.
Emotional states can raise the heart rate as well. This would include times when we are scared or anxious. It would also include periods of stress, anger or even depression. Even when we sleep, an exciting dream or frightening nightmare can raise the heart rate. Specific emotions produce adrenaline, and as a result, the brain sends a signal to the heart to beat faster.
Medications (with the exception of those intended to slow down one’s heart rhythm), stimulants, alcohol, and smoking use also affect one’s heart rate. When our bodies absorb unnatural substances such as these, the heart reacts by working harder. The heart will also work harder during the body’s process of digestion; such as right after a big meal.
High temperatures will also raise a person’s heart rate because the body‘s natural thermostat goes to work in an effort to keep the body cool.. Examples of this would include lying out in the sun to get that tan, taking extremely hot showers, or spending any appreciable time outdoors in hot weather.
Finally, the onset of illness or infection will raise one’s heart rate; particularly if fever is present. A high fever can kick an otherwise healthy person’s heart rate up to 130-140 beats a minute. Oddly enough, a strong emotional or stressful episode, which also raises the heart rate as previously mentioned , can also raise a person’s body temperature, even if there is no physical cause.
Basically, as long as one’s heart rate while rested and in a relaxed state doesn’t fall below 60 or above 80-100 beats a minute, doctors are usually not concerned. However, if the rate consistently falls outside of that range without an obvious cause, further tests or a visit to a cardiologist may be recommended.