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Knowing your heart rate could save your life

Your heart is racing, your blood is pumping—is it because of stress? A difficult workout? Or a problem with your health? 

The heart is the most important muscle in your body, so knowing your heart rate is one way to monitor your heart health. Your heart rate, or pulse, is the number of times your heart beats per minute. Heart rates differ from person to person, so what is normal for someone else might not be normal for you. 

“Checking your heart rate is a way to gauge your fitness level,” said Dr. Kevin M. Young, a Saint Thomas Heart cardiologist. “But it’s not just for athletes. In fact, checking your heart rate can save your life by signaling dangerous heart problems before they occur.” 

On average, a healthy human’s heart beats 60 to 100 times per minute at rest. To check your heart rate, place two fingers below your jaw line, directly press on your neck and count the number of times you feel a pulse. 

When you monitor your heart rate, keep the following in mind: 

  • Your heart pumps more blood throughout the body when you are active. Your heart rate will be faster when you are moving or exercising, and lower when you are at rest.   
  • Emotions play a major role in your heart rate. Being stressed, anxious, very happy or extremely sad can lead to differing heart rates. 
  • Your sizedoesn’t play a major role in heart rate, but it can affect it. If you are overweight, your heart has to work harder to pump blood while resting, so your heart rate will be faster. 
  • Certain medications, such as beta blockers for adrenaline purposes, lower your heart rate. Other forms of medications can increase your heart rate. 

Although there is no standard heart rate, seek immediate medical attention if your pulse is abnormally slow (below 60 beats per minute) or fast (above 100 beats per minute). A very slow or fast heart rate may indicate an underlying health problem.    

For more information about Saint Thomas Health, please visit To schedule an appointment with Dr. Young, please call 615-565-6670 for his Franklin office or 615-565-6670 for his Columbia office.


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