Blood pressure, pulse rate, and heart rate are the key terms used when talking about heart health. It is easy to feel confused and overwhelmed when these terminologies are thrown about. Are they the same? Are they different but interrelated? Do not worry, let’s tackle these terms one at a time and learn about the differences between them.Contents:
Pulse rate and heart rate determine the same number. Pulse rate or heart rate refers to the number of times your heart beats per minute or the speed at which the heart beats.
Normal pulse rate can vary from minute to minute and person to person, depending on age and general health. However, generally, a normal resting pulse rate should be between 60 to 100 beats per minute.
Blood pressure is the force exerted by the flowing blood on the walls of your arteries. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to other parts of the body. With each heartbeat, your heart pumps blood into your arteries.
An ideal blood pressure level is less than or equal to 120/80 mm Hg, where 120 mm Hg is the systolic blood pressure and 80 mm Hg is the diastolic blood pressure.
Pulse rate and blood pressure can be self-measured. However, it is advised to measure them when your heart is working in a normal state. This means that the body should be in a resting position and these numbers should not be measured after a stressful event or workout.
It is easy to measure the pulse rate using an activity tracker such as a fitness watch or other digital devices available in the market. If you want to measure it manually, the following steps need to be followed:
It can also be measured by placing the finger on the side of your neck, the inside of your elbow or the top of your foot.
The resting pulse rate or heart rate for different ages can be understood by the following numbers. Target heart rate during moderate intensity activity is about 50-70% of maximum heart rate, and during strenuous physical activity is about 70-85% of maximum heart rate.
|Age||Target Heart Rate Zone, 50-85%||Average Maximum Heart Rate, 100%|
|20 years||100-170 beats per minute (bpm)||200 bpm|
|30 years||95-162 bpm||190 bpm|
|35 years||93-157 bpm||185 bpm|
|40 years||90-153 bpm||180 bpm|
|45 years||88-149 bpm||175 bpm|
|50 years||85-145 bpm||170 bpm|
|55 years||83-140 bpm||165 bpm|
|60 years||80-136 bpm||160 bpm|
|65 years||78-132 bpm||155 bpm|
|70 years||75-128 bpm||150 bpm|
Source: American Heart Association
Checking your blood pressure is a little more elaborate process as compared to checking your pulse or heart rate, as it requires a blood pressure cuff. You can get it checked by your doctor at any nearby clinics or hospitals.
However, digital blood pressure monitors are now available in superstores and pharmacies that can help you self-check your blood pressure.
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Your blood pressure reading consists of 2 numbers:
You should keep in mind the readings in this table to know if your BP is high, low, or normal.
|Blood Pressure Category||Systolic (mm Hg)||and/or||Diastolic (mm Hg)|
|Low||Less than 90||and/or||Less than 60|
|Normal||Less than 120||and||Less than 80|
|Elevated||120 to 129||and||Less than 80|
High Blood Pressure
(Hypertension Stage 1)
|130 to 139||or||80 to 89|
High Blood Pressure
(Hypertension Stage 2)
|140 or higher||or||90 or higher|
|Hypertensive Crisis||Higher than 180||and/or||Higher than 120|
Source: American Heart Association and the National Health Service
Pulse rate and blood pressure are often mistaken to be interrelated. They frequently rise together, but it does not mean that this will happen in all conditions. For example, when you are performing a heavy physical activity, both your pulse rate and blood pressure will increase. Meanwhile, if you are sick, dehydrated or bleeding, your pulse rate will be high but your blood pressure will decrease.
Further, during exercise, as your heart beats faster, your healthy blood vessels will expand in size to allow increased blood flow, and this will help your blood pressure levels remain stable.
Thus, measuring your pulse or heart rate alone is not an indicator of high or low blood pressure. Your pulse rate or heart rate can increase with or without any change in your blood pressure.
Pulse rate and blood pressure are two different numbers that determine cardiovascular health.
Blood pressure refers to the pressure exerted by your blood on the walls of your blood vessels, whereas the pulse rate or heart rate determines the number of times your heart beats in a minute.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a common clinical condition where your blood pressure is consistently too high.
Low blood pressure or hypotension is defined as the condition where your blood flows with very less pressure or force through your blood vessels.
A high (resting) pulse rate, medically known as tachycardia, is when your heart beats more than 100 times in a minute. It can vary among individuals based on several factors such as age and fitness levels.
A low resting pulse rate, medically referred to as bradycardia, is a condition where your beats beats less than 60 beats a minute. If the pulse rate is very slow and the heart cannot pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the body, it can become a serious condition.
This table provides a simple comparison between pulse/heart rate and blood pressure.
|Parameters of comparison||Pulse/Heart Rate||Blood Pressure|
|Meaning||The number of times your heart beats in one minute||Pressure exerted by your blood on the walls of your blood vessels.|
|Unit of measurement||Beats per minute (bpm)||Millimeters of mercury (mm Hg)|
|Normal range||60-100 bpm||120/80 mm Hg|
|Numbers for measurement||Consists of a single number||Consists of two numbers: systolic and diastolic|
Various factors can affect the pulse rate, including:
When the temperature and humidity in the air rises, your heart has to pump more blood, which results in an increased pulse rate.
If you are obese, you might see an increased resting pulse rate. It should not be above 100 bpm.
A sudden change in your body position might increase or decrease your pulse rate.
The state of your mind can affect your pulse rate. If you are stressed, anxious, or extremely happy or sad, you will observe an increase in your pulse rate.
Drugs such as beta blockers can lower the pulse or heart rate to a value below 60 bpm, which does not necessarily indicate a medical problem.
Blood pressure may increase or decrease due to several factors which can include:
If your pulse rate or heart rate is resulting in an abnormal reading (above 100 bpm or below 60 bpm), it could be because of the following causes:
It is a common type of arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat) that causes a high and irregular resting heart rate.
It is a condition in which the heart beats slower than normal.
Insufficient thyroid hormone production can lead to a slower heart rate.
Certain medicines for colds and allergies can cause an abnormal heart rate..
Primary hypertension can be caused by age, genetics, overweight, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, or chronic conditions such as diabetes or kidney disorders. Secondary hypertension is mostly caused by an underlying health condition or certain medications.
Low blood pressure (below 90/60 mm Hg) can happen due to medical conditions such as heart diseases, endocrine disorders, pregnancy, severe infection or septicemia, dehydration, blood loss, and malnutrition. Certain medications such as blood pressure medications and antidepressants can also cause low blood pressure.
See a doctor if:
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