Relationship Between Blood Pressure & Heart Rate

Written by genevieve hawkins
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Many people believe that blood pressure and pulse rate rise and fall together, even though this is not always true. Although blood pressure and heart rate may be related, the relationship changes depending on your individual medical condition. According to Dr. Cynthia Shelby-Lane of the Élan Anti-Aging & Longevity Center of Michigan, heart rate can be affected by electrical disturbances that might or might not affect blood pressure.

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Relationship Between Blood Pressure & Heart Rate
Exercise is good for cardiovascular health ("Running at Sunset by Photos8.com" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: Photos8.com (Sam Photos8.com) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.)

Function

Blood is ejected from the aorta into large arteries that spread the fluid throughout the body. Systemic arterial blood pressure (the kind most often measured) measures pressure waves that flow through the brachial artery in the arm. Normally when the heart pumps more frequently (increasing pulse) blood pressure also moves upwards, which is why both blood pressure and heart rate are higher during exercise and lower when you are sleeping.

Significance

Because people with high blood pressure are more likely to have heart attacks, your blood pressure is often used as a proxy of your overall cardiovascular health. If your blood pressure is too high, your doctor may prescribe you medicine to fix it, which may also impact your average heart rate. Medicine to lower blood pressure may cause your heart rate to increase or to decrease, or it may have no effect.

Guidelines

According to the National High Blood Pressure Education Program, a systolic blood pressure reading of between 120 and 139 mmHG (millimeters of mercury) and a diastolic reading of between 80 and 89 mmHG is considered prehypertensive. A systolic reading of between 140 and 159 and a diastolic reading of between 90 and 99 is considered Stage 1 hypertension. A systolic reading of above 160 mmHG and a diastolic reading of above 100 mmHG is considered Stage 2 hypertension. Your average resting heart rate should be between 60 and 80 beats per minute. Athletes tend to have lower than average resting pulse rates.

Effects

An exercise regimen may help lower your blood pressure, but it does not appear to lower your resting pulse rate as was originally thought. According to Dr. Gabe Mirkin in "Resting Heart Rate and Recovery Heart Rate," a 20-week endurance program did not lower the average resting heart rate of participants. A better measure of cardiovascular fitness is how fast your pulse rate slows down after strenuous exercise--your pulse rate should slow down by 30 beats one minute after very vigorous physical activity.

Prevention/Solution

Both low blood pressure and a low resting pulse rate are correlated with good health. In order to lower your blood pressure without medicine, eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and low in saturated fats. Exercise each day for at least 30 minutes. Live a less stressful life.

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