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What Your Heart Says About Your Health

By Tim Callahan15 Jun 2022

Your heart is busy at work at all times – beating around 100,000 times a day and pumping about 2,000 gallons of blood each day for the average person.

We rarely notice the steady pitter-patter of our hearts as we go about our day, but your heart can give you and your healthcare team subtle signs about your overall health if you are looking. With the growing popularity of smartwatches and fitness trackers monitoring your heartbeat and other basic health metrics, that information is increasingly becoming top-of-mind for many people.

Of course, measuring your pulse is just one aspect of a cardiac assessment and a single piece of the overall health puzzle. Any concerns should be discussed with your doctor. That said, these are some of the signals your heart gives you about your health:

Resting Heart Rate

Your resting heart rate is one of the most rudimentary health checks: simply count the number of times your heart beats per minute when you are at rest and not exerting yourself.

There are many reasons why your heart rate changes throughout the day. You may have just drank a cup of coffee, encountered a stressful situation or walked up a flight of stairs, but your resting heart rate is your baseline.

Generally, a healthy adult will have a heart rate between 60 to 100 beats per minute. A rate outside of that range doesn’t necessarily indicate a problem. Athletes, for example, will typically have a lower heart rate because of their cardiovascular fitness. For others, medications like beta-blockers can reduce heart rate.  

But a heart rate significantly outside of those parameters could indicate an underlying problem or point toward cardiovascular disease, especially if paired with other symptoms like shortness of breath or faintness.

Monitor your resting heart rate but don’t obsess over the number, advises the American Heart Association. Know your normal baseline and bring up any irregularities with your doctor.

Heart Rate Recovery

Heart rate recovery measures the change in your heart rate after exertion. Typically, it is measured one to two minutes after peak exercise.

It is most commonly used as a fitness assessment. People with a higher level of fitness usually return to their baseline rate more quickly after exercise compared to someone who is less fit. Heart rate recovery can be tracked over time to show an improvement in cardiovascular fitness.

Research has also found that heart rate recovery at the 10-second mark can be a predictor of coronary artery disease mortality over time.  

Heart Rate Variability

Heart variability measures the variation in time between each heartbeat.

Some non-medical devices like fitness trackers claim to measure variability. However, the fluctuations can be very slight - just a fraction of a second - and electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) machines give a much more accurate result.

In general, a higher heart rate variability is a sign of a healthy heart. It means that your heart can quickly adapt to changes in the environment, beating faster or slower as needed.

Likewise, less variation in your heart rate can be a sign of a health concern – it often goes hand-in-hand with a higher resting heart rate, which is why there is less variability. It can be associated with conditions like diabetes, heart arrhythmia, asthma, anxiety, or depression.

Other Measurements: What Blood Flow Data Shows Your Healthcare Team

Knowledge truly is power when it comes to your health. If your heart tells you this much when you can’t even see it, just think what it can show a surgical team when they look at it. The right information can be life-changing if you ever require treatment for something like coronary artery disease or other heart diseases.

It’s crucial for cardiac surgeons and other doctors to be able to accurately measure your heart activity – including blood flow. If you have coronary artery disease, for example, you may require coronary artery bypass graft surgery to reroute blood flow around the damaged vessels.

Tools, such as Transonic’s AureFlo, help surgeons obtain specific data about blood flow in circulatory support systems that are used during cardiac procedures, like cardiopulmonary bypass (CP bypass). This information really can make a difference in your care.

Transonic’s flow measurement solutions provide medical professionals – and their patients – peace of mind about heart health when care is needed.

Your heart is talking and we’re listening.

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