Why is it important to track your resting heart rate?

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And what exactly IS your resting heart rate?

In a world full of wearables (FitBits! Apple Watches! Garmins!), it's nearly impossible to avoid seeing your resting heart rate. But why is this number so important to know?

Your pulse is one of many tools to formulate a complete picture of your health. Many athletes track their heart rates during workouts to monitor their fitness levels and how hard they need to push (find out more on that here). But, staying on top of that number even when you're not breaking a sweat can have some benefits. According to the American Heart Association, knowledge about your heart rate can help you spot developing health problems.

What exactly is your heart rate?

"Your heart rate, or pulse, is the number of times your heart beats per minute," says the American Heart Association. Your resting heart rate is calculated when you're not exercising or moving—when your heart is pumping the lowest amount of blood.

What's considered normal?

Typically, your maximum heart rate when active is about 220 minus your age, and a resting heart rate between 60 and 100 beats per minute (BPM) is considered normal. But that number can vary based on your activity level, the air temperature, stress levels, body size, and even what medications you take.

The more you exercise, the lower your resting heart rate tends to be. "Active people often have lower heart rates because their heart muscle is in better condition and doesn't need to work as hard to maintain a steady beat," says the American Heart Association.

Why is this information good to know?

If you notice a drastic increase or decrease in your resting heart rate, it could be a sign that something is wrong. Don't panic—most likely, your heart rate is spiking for minor reasons, like dehydration or stress. But if your pulse is very low, you're having frequent episodes of unexplained fast heart rates, or you're noticing a big change in resting heart rate along with other symptoms like feeling weak, faint, or dizzy, it could warrant a trip to the doctor.

How do you track your heart rate?

You can find your pulse by placing a finger on your wrist, inside of your elbow, on the side of your neck, or the top of your foot and count the number of beats in 60 seconds. And now, thanks to technology, many smartwatches can track your heart rate automatically.

While wearables and fitness trackers provide a good look at your resting heart rate, it's important to remember that these are not medical devices and can't diagnose or treat any diseases. They can only help you spot inconsistencies. If you're worried about the number on your watch, schedule an appointment with your doctor.

This article is for informational purposes only. Please speak to your physician with concerns about your heart rate.

Sinclair Broadcast Group is committed to the health and well-being of our viewers, which is why we initiated Sinclair Cares. Every month we'll bring you information about the "Cause of the Month," including topical information, education, awareness, and prevention. February is "American Heart Month."