DEAR JIM: I’ve been sedentary most of my life. You see, I’m one of those people who just hates exercise. Don’t ask me why. I just hate it. Nevertheless, I’ve managed to make to the ripe old age of 74 without any major hiccups. But, recently, I had my annual checkup with my doctor, and he said my resting heart rate was higher than usual – around 90 beats per minute. He didn’t seem to be overly concerned – probably because of my age – but I’m not so sure. Is this something I should be worried about? WONDERING IN WATERLOO
DEAR WONDERING: Probably.
Your doctor may not be aware of a recent study by the Medical College of Qingdao University in Shandong, China, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), showed that a resting heart rate of more than 80 beats per minute had a 45% greater risk of death – regardless of the cause of death – compared to those with a resting heart rate of 60-80 beats who had a 21% increased risk.
A high resting heart rate, in itself, is not a risk factor, but “there is no doubt that elevated resting heart rate serves as a marker of poor health status,” according to Dr. Donfeng Zhang, one of the co-authors of the study. “Our results highlight that people should pay more attention to their resting heart rate for their health and also indicate the potential importance of physical activity to lower resting heart rate.”
Moreover, “the association of resting heart rate with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality is independent of traditional risk factors of cardiovascular disease, suggesting that resting heart rate is a predictor of mortality,” continues Zhang.
Researchers assessed 46 studies involving 1,246,203 patients and 78,349 deaths from all causes and 848,320 patients and 25,800 deaths from cardiovascular disease, and results indicated that risk of mortality increased by 9% for all-causes and 8% for cardiovascular-related causes respectively for every 10 beats per minute increment of resting heart rate.
As you can see, the good Dr. Zheng recommends that dirty word “exercise” – disguised as “physical activity” – to lower your resting heart rate. I’m not sure why you hate exercise (that’s another column), but maybe it’s time to consider at least increasing your “physical activity,” if that sounds better. I would recommend walking. After all, you have to walk somewhere every day anyway – to the bathroom, to the mailbox, to the grocery store, etc, so just increase your walking every day and, in time, it should gradually lower your resting heart rate, and you probably won’t even break a sweat.
If you make it to 75, let me know,and let’s see how you are doing. In the meantime, check out the video associated with this response to learn how to take your pulse so you can monitor your resting heart rate on your own.