At most routine visits, your doctor will pay close attention to your weight, your blood pressure…and probably your cholesterol levels.
But they might not give much time or thought to one VITAL metric that tells us a LOT about your current state of health…and your risk of dying prematurely.
In fact, this overlooked metric is so important to your longevity, I urge you to monitor it at home.
Then, you can take five easy steps to maintain it.
Here’s everything you need to know (that your doctor probably isn’t telling you)…
A glimpse into your future
Our often-overlooked health metric is your resting heart rate (RHR). It refers to how many beats your heart takes every minute.
Experts say a “normal” RHR should fall between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm). But having a RHR at the lower end of that spectrum is ideal, because it means your heart doesn’t work as hard to pump blood and nutrients around the body.
On the other hand, a slightly elevated RHR means your heart has to work harder. This can signify an increased risk of heart attack and death.
In fact, at least 32 published studies show that an elevated heart rate is an independent risk factor for death in healthy people with and without hypertension (high blood pressure).
And in one key study, researchers discovered that the higher a person’s RHR, the greater the risk of suffering a premature death.
More specifically, a RHR between 81 and 90 DOUBLED the chance of death. And a RHR higher than 90 TRIPLED it!
At the same time, a RHR below 60 bpm (called bradycardia) can also signal trouble. Especially if you also experience confusion, dizziness, or chest pain—which can indicate that your brain and heart aren’t getting enough blood and oxygen.
In other words, it’s crucial that your doctor carefully checks your RHR at every visit.
If it’s abnormally high or low, your doctor will probably recommend an electro-cardiogram (EKG) for further information. (There are also devices that you can wear for 24 hours to give the doctor a larger data set to analyze.)
In addition, as I mentioned earlier, you should check your RHR a few at home. (There are high-tech, personal devices that can track your RHR for you. But all you really need is a timer and two fingers held at your risk or neck! You can even look for demonstration videos on the internet for extra guidance.)
Now, let’s move on to the FIVE steps you can take to support a healthy RHR—and help improve your longevity…
Five steps to a healthy heart rate
Eat like the Greeks and Italians. Study after study shows that eating a balanced diet rich in whole foods is one of the best ways to protect your heart. While there are diets specifically geared to cardiovascular health, I prefer the time-tested Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes heart-healthy fruits and vegetables; full-fat dairy; healthy, organic meats, like lamb; nuts and seeds; olive oil; and moderate consumption of alcohol.
Get moving—but don’t overdo it. Research shows that getting just 140 to 150 minutes of light-to-moderate exercise per week benefits your heart (and your longevity) enormously. Walking, swimming, housework, gardening, or other enjoyable activities all count toward your weekly total. The key is to avoid working out too much or too hard, because “excess-ercise,” as I call it, can actually harms the heart and joints, and other parts of your body.
Try some mind-body approaches. When you feel stressed, your body releases adrenaline, a hormone that temporarily causes your RHR (and blood pressure) to increase. Over time, this can damage artery walls, increasing your risk of blood clots, heart attack, and stroke.
Mindfulness meditation and other mind-body approaches (like yoga and acupuncture) can help you effectively manage stress and keep your RHR at normal levels. Take this short quiz to find out which mind-body approaches will work best for you. Then, check out my book New World Mindfulness for guidance on how to make short mindfulness meditation sessions a regular part of your life.
Become a social butterfly. A recent analysis published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that maintaining strong social connections lowers your risk of developing chronic inflammation, a root cause behind heart disease (and other chronic conditions). And in another study, people with positive, close, social relationships had a lower risk of heart disease compared to those involved in negative social relationships.
So, strive to develop and nurture those close, uplifting relationships with like-minded people. Get out of the house every day. Get involved in the community. Join a club. And connect regularly with friends and family. Your heart health most certainly depends on it!
Take heart-healthy supplements. Last, but certainly not least, several key nutrients can support your heart health and help keep it pumping at a normal rate. Here are six heart-healthy supplements I recommend taking daily:
- A high-quality vitamin B complex that contains at least 30 mg of B6, 800 mcg of folate, and 1,000 mcg of B12
- Vitamin D3—250 mcg (10,000 IU)
- Vitamin K2—150 mcg (Note: Vitamin K may interact with anticoagulant drugs, which are often prescribed to people with heart conditions. So, as always, consult with your physician before adding any supplements to your diet.)
- Betaine—500 mg
- L-carnitine—500 mg
- Coenzyme Q10—200 mg
For more insight into natural ways to keep your RHR in the “sweet spot” and support your overall heart health as you get older, I encourage you to check out my Heart Attack Prevention and Repair Protocol. This innovative, online learning tool outlines the natural pathway to low blood pressure and a healthy heart…without ever taking a dangerous heart medication. To learn more, or to enroll today, click here now!
“Resting heart rate: a modifiable prognostic indicator of cardiovascular risk and outcomes?” Can J Cardiol. 2008;24 Suppl A(Suppl A):3A-8A. doi.org/10.1016/s0828-282x(08)71019-5
“Elevated resting heart rate, physical fitness and all-cause mortality: a 16-year follow-up in the Copenhagen Male Study.” Heart 2013;99:882-887. doi.org/10.1136/heartjnl-2012-303375
“Social support, depression, and heart disease: a ten year literature review.” Front Psychol. 2013;4:384. doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00384
“Your Guide to a Healthier, Happier, Longer Life.” AARP, 1/2/2019. (aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2019/guide-healthier-longer-life.html)