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Unveiling the Secrets: Heart Metrics You Need to Know

Feb 06, 2024

By Jennifer Engels, MD

Your heart, that rhythmic powerhouse of life, holds the key to valuable insights into your overall health. Beyond the simple beats per minute (BPM), understanding specific metrics like your Resting Heart Rate (RHR), Respiratory Rate, and Heart Rate Variability (HRV) can unveil a wealth of information about your well-being. 

February is American Heart Month, and in the spirit of the month, this article will delve into these metrics and discuss how they contribute to the bigger picture of heart health.

Resting Heart Rate (RHR): Your Heart's Baseline

Your RHR, the number of heartbeats per minute while at rest, is a fundamental metric. A lower RHR generally correlates with better cardiovascular fitness and overall health. Regularly tracking RHR can help detect potential issues early on, allowing for proactive lifestyle adjustments.

So, what is a normal RHR? According to specialists at the Mayo Clinic, the range for a normal RHR is rather wide, from 60 to 100 beats per minute, while a well-conditioned athlete's RHR might be as low as 40 beats per minute.

It is also important to remember that many factors can influence your RHR including:

  •  Age
  • Being a smoker or non-smoker
  • Activity level and overall fitness
  • Having cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or high cholesterol
  • Emotions
  • Body size
  • Medications

While the range is wide for a “normal” RHR, an unusually high or low rate may indicate an underlying problem. You should consult your doctor if your RHR is consistently above 100 beats per minute (tachycardia) or below 60 per minute (bradycardia).  Consulting a healthcare professional is especially important if you have other signs or symptoms, including dizziness, shortness of breath, or fainting.

Respiratory Rate: Breathing Life into Heart Health

Often overlooked, respiratory rate plays a crucial role in heart health. Efficient breathing supports oxygenation, reducing the workload on the heart. Deep, controlled breathing can positively impact RHR and your Heart Rate Variability (HRV). Monitoring respiratory rate provides valuable insights into respiratory and cardiovascular function.

The normal respiration rate for an adult at rest ranges between 12 to 16 breaths per minute. However, respiration rates may increase with fever and other medical conditions. 

Heart Rate Variability (HRV): The Symphony of Life

HRV is the variation in time between each heartbeat, reflecting the adaptability of your autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS constantly operates behind the scenes and automatically regulates key body functions such as heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, and digestion. 

Signals from the ANS are sent to the brain area known as the hypothalamus, which then signals other parts of the body to either stimulate or relax various bodily functions. 

Normally, our bodies handle many stimuli, and life goes on more or less normally. However, if we have persistent instigators in our daily lives such as stress, poor diet, lack of sleep, excessive alcohol, dysfunctional relationships, and lack of exercise, our daily balance may be disrupted, and our body’s fight-or-flight mechanism may go into overdrive.

That, in turn, increases your heart rate, reducing your HVR - the time between the beats of your heart.

In contrast, individuals with a higher HRV - a longer interval between heartbeats - may have greater cardiovascular fitness and more resistance to stress. 

The bottom line here is that our HRV may provide valuable feedback about your lifestyle and help motivate those wanting to take steps toward a healthier life. And if you fall into that category, functional medicine can be of great assistance. 

Functional Medicine's Approach to Heart Health

As I have said in many previous articles, functional medicine takes a holistic approach to health, addressing the root causes rather than just symptoms of health problems. Regarding heart health, functional medicine focuses on lifestyle, nutrition, stress management, and personalized interventions. Understanding individual variations in RHR, respiratory rate, and HRV can help you and your physician tailor interventions for optimal results.

At WeCare Frisco, we believe in a proactive approach to heart health. New patients are always welcome to explore the benefits of our personalized approach to healthcare. 

We invite you to schedule a free discovery call by contacting us at 972-668-2636 to learn how functional medicine can enhance your heart health and well-being.

Remember, your heart rate tells a story – let us help you make it a tale of vitality and wellness.


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“I was absolutely fascinated,” Engels says, “by this new style of medicine that saw the patient as a whole biological system rather focusing on only one organ system at a time, such as Cardiology. This was a complete paradigm shift from conventional medicine and how I was trained.”