Heart Rate vs. Blood Pressure: What’s the Difference?
For most of us, a trip to the doctor begins with a check of our heart rate and blood pressure. While they’re often taken together, these two measurements are distinct. Read on as we clarify these two critical measurements.
Heart Rate vs. Blood Pressure
The easiest way to understand the differences in blood pressure vs. heart rate is to compare what they measure.
What is Heart Rate?
- Your heart rate, also called your pulse, measures how many times your heart beats each minute.
- Changes in activity, age, and the medications you take can all affect your heart rate.
- The average adult has a heart rate in the range of 60-100 beats per minute. People who regularly exercise usually have lower heart rates.
What is Blood Pressure?
- Blood pressure measures the force of the blood against your artery walls as blood pumps through your body.
- Blood pressure is typically measured using two numbers. The top number is systolic pressure, and the bottom number is the diastolic pressure.
- Systolic pressure measures pressure while your heart pumps blood through your arteries. Diastolic pressure measures pressure as the heart rests between beats. A reading of 120/80 or less is considered ideal.
Causes of High Blood Pressure & Low Heart Rate
While it is uncommon for blood pressure to be high while heart rate is low, the following conditions most often cause a person to have a low heart rate with high blood pressure:
- Thickened heart tissue
- Certain medications may decrease or increase your heart rate
Heart Rate vs. Blood Pressure Relationship
It’s common for heart rate and blood pressure to increase or decrease in tandem. When the two move in opposite directions, it’s often an indicator of an underlying issue. The issue could be minor, such as a small cut or slight dehydration. Or, it may be evidence of a more significant underlying issue requiring a consultation with a doctor.
While a high heart rate and high blood pressure are often indicators of more severe health conditions, it’s often completely normal to have a low heart rate and low blood pressure.
People with low resting heart rates are often healthy, active individuals. While low blood pressure is a bit more concerning, it’s common for a person to have low blood pressure while being completely healthy. However, some causes of low heart rate and blood pressure do require medical attention.
What to Do?
There are several important modifiable risk factors for managing heart rate and blood pressure:
- Stop smoking
- Maintain ideal body weight
- Decrease cholesterol
- Control diabetes
- Exercise regularly
Ensure that your exercise routine is in line with your age and activity level. Overexertion can put you at higher risk for Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). Be sure to consult our guide to SCA to ensure that you’re protecting your cardiovascular health during exercise.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle is an ideal way to ensure optimal balance between heart rate and blood pressure, however, cardiovascular distress can strike at any time.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest is the leading cause of death for adults over the age of 40, and the leading killer of student athletes.
Take a look at some common questions we see about blood pressure vs. heart rate.
Is Heart Rate or Blood Pressure More Important?
While both are important measurements, blood pressure is the more critical of the two. A heart rate that falls outside of the standard for a healthy adult may be cause for concern. High or low blood pressure may be evidence of an underlying health issue. A blood pressure that’s more than 10mmHg higher or lower than the target of 120/80mmHg would be considered irregular. Always consult a doctor if you have questions or concerns about your heart rate or blood pressure.
Does Blood Pressure Medication Affect Heart Rate?
Many people experience a change in resting heart rate when they begin taking blood pressure medication. Several medications for high blood pressure have an effect on heart rate.
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