Things That Affect Pulse Rates

Pulse rate reveals so much about a person's mental and physical health. Pulse rate refers to the number of times your heart beats per minute. Although a pulse rate will vary from person to person, the average pulse rate is around 70 to 80 beats per minute.

Factors that may increase or decrease the rate include age, activity, health and medication. Whether a pulse rate is above or below normal, it can be improved. Consult your doctor if you have a high or low pulse rate to find out what you can do to improve it.


Pulse rates decrease with age. When an infant is born, the heart beats about 120 times per minute. In children, the heart pulse rate decreases to around 100 beats per minute. An adult younger than 60 typically has a heart rate between 70 and 80 beats per minute. Elderly people age 60 and older typically have a pulse rate around 60 beats per minute. In addition to age, the pulse rates for women are slightly faster than men.

Activity and Exercise

When the body undergoes activity, the heart works harder than normal. Even before you exercise, the heart rate rises above normal. This is known as an anticipatory response. Exercise increases respiration, oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production. Oxygen rapidly moves to the muscle cells and the circulation of blood moves faster. So much activity forces the heart to work harder and faster, thus increasing the pulse rate.


Health has an effect on pulse rate. Factors such as digestion, pain, emotion and high blood pressure affect pulse rate. When an individual is in pain or is experiencing heightened negative emotions such as fear, anger, anxiety or excitement, the pulse rate increases. When an individual experiences these emotions, the body produces a "flight or fight" response. The brain fires off chemical responses to the rest of the body, including the heart. When this occurs, the heart rate increases, but only for a short period of time until the stress subsides. Also related to health is body size. A short, obese person has a higher pulse rate than a tall, slender person.


Medication also affects the pulse rate. Antihypertensive medications, which are used to treat high blood pressure, can increase pulse rate. Antihypertensive medications relax the blood vessels in the body or widen blood vessels to lower blood pressure. As a result, they increase pulse rate.