What Heart Rate Is Too Low? What Heart Rate Is Too High?   

What Heart Rate Is Too Low? What Heart Rate Is Too High?

What Heart Rate Is Too Low? What Heart Rate Is Too High?

February 23, 2022

Clinical Contributors to this story:
David Landers, M.D.

Have you ever felt that your heart was pounding faster than you thought it should be beating?

What’s a ‘normal’ heart rate?

Most adults have a resting heart rate that falls within the range of 60 to 100 beats per minute. 

However, your heart rate may rise much higher than that when you exert yourself while exercising or if your heart races when you feel stressed. Additionally, your heart rate may fall lower than the typical range while you’re sleeping, particularly if you’re a healthy young adult or an elite athlete.

Doctors consider a resting heartbeat that’s higher than 100 beats per minute to be higher than normal and a resting heart rate that’s lower than 60 beats per minute to be lower than normal.

“It’s healthier to have a resting heart rate that’s toward the lower end of the 60- to 100-beat range, although this varies by person,” says interventional cardiology specialist, David Landers, M.D. “When your resting heart rate is lower, it typically means that the heart is working efficiently, and it’s associated with healthy attributes like healthy blood-pressure levels and a healthy body weight.”  

Symptoms of too-high and too-low heart rates

Some people with resting heart rates that are higher or lower than the range of 60 to 100 beats per minute don’t experience any symptoms. Other people notice that they feel different than usual.

People who have a higher-than-normal heart rate may experience:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Fainting
  • Feeling short of breath
  • Fatigue

People who have a lower-than-normal heart rate may experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Low energy levels
  • Feeling weak
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Heart palpitations
  • Confusion

What it may mean if your heart rate is higher or lower than the normal range

Sometimes, a higher- or lower-than-normal resting heart rate could be a sign that someone has a medical condition that should be identified and monitored. Other times, there may be a simple explanation for the discrepancy in heart rate. For example, different medications may cause higher or lower resting heart rates as a side effect.

Some people may have a higher-than-normal resting heart rate that may not require treatment if they:

  • Have a fever
  • Are pregnant
  • Have hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
  • Experience chronic pain
  • Have anemia
  • Experience anxiety
  • Recently consumed caffeine

What a higher-than-normal resting heart rate could mean

Sometimes, a resting heart rate above 100 beats per minute may be the sign of a health condition that a doctor should diagnose and treat, such as atrial fibrillation or an arrhythmia.  

If someone has a higher-than-normal resting heart rate, they may be at greater risk of heart-muscle damage, organ failure or stroke.

“When you suspect that your heart is beating more quickly than normal, seeking medical care may be life-saving,” says Dr. Landers.

What a lower-than-normal resting heart rate could mean

Low heart rates are more common among people with hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) or people who sustained damage to their electrical system during a heart attack.

When someone has a lower-than-normal resting heart rate, their heart may not pump oxygen-rich blood around the body at the rate that their body needs it, which may have serious consequences.

When the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it may cause someone to faint or feel short of breath. It may also increase the risk of congestive heart failure.

“It’s important to see a doctor to investigate possible causes of a low resting heart rate, to avoid possible health complications,” says Dr. Landers.

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.


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