Resting Heart Rate — Lowering with Wearables

Daily tracking of our resting heart rate is one of the best ways to improve health and fitness.
The latest in fitness trackers makes tracking resting heart rate simple.

We all know a lower resting heart rate is better for our health.

But it’s not just a good sign of overall fitness. It’s a great ‘spot’ check on our health is.

Bad diets, stress, alcohol & illness all push our heart rate up. And they can keep it up for 12–24 hours or longer.

We don’t have to go to the gym five times a week to lower it.

Clean diet, relaxation and less alcohol bring it back down again. Results can be very quick. Over days even.

A lower heart rate ripples health benefits out to the rest of our body. Weight loss, heart health and even inflammatory diseases like IBS.

The latest fitness trackers show us our resting heart rate daily. They’re easy to use, and they’re getting cheaper all the time.

NOTE — a low resting heart rate can also indicate hypothyroidism. See links below for more information.

Diet is huge

When I first got a fitness tracker that showed me my resting heart rate, it was amazing to see just how much impact alcohol had on it. One unit would bump it up by two beats.

And it would stay up all night — the next morning my heart was still racing.

The more I used it, the more I realised it wasn’t just alcohol. It was processed food in general.

Why our resting heart rate increases

Reasons our body increases our heart rate:

  • Stress hormones — adrenalin and cortisol. Exercise or general stress causes.
  • Nervous system — fight-or-flight vs. rest-and-relax.
  • Immune System — when we’re sick. Food intolerances. Auto-immune diseases.
  • Inflammation — disease and bad diets. Inflammation leads to more blood pumped around our bodies.
  • Stimulants — coffee, sugar, energy drinks and some medications

Understanding makes it easier to reduce.

What most increased my resting heart rate

Over the last 18 months, what’s had the biggest impact on me has been sickness, stress, alcohol and food intolerance’s — I’m intolerant to histamine.

Processed or fast food pushes it up also.

Exercise in the short term pushes it up, cause the body is stressed. Over the long term there should be a gradual improvement. For me diet will totally override any changes there on a day-to-day basis.

This is a process of self-experimentation, to figure this information out.

Resting heart rate is a great way to track health

Compared to many other ways to track our health, like weight tracking

  • Better — it’s a more accurate picture of health than weight
  • Easier — the latest wearable tracker apps are simple to use and understand. They show history. They’re with us all the time.
  • Faster — Resting heart rate we can see changes in health within 24 hours. Weight gain can take weeks. Doctor’s appointments can take months before the next check-up.

Resting heart rate shows up food intolerances

Food intolerances can cause bumps in resting heart rate within 1–2 hours. And they can stay up for 12–24 hours.

Food intolerances can be terrible for health:

  • Inflammatory diseases like IBS, arthritis, brain fog, etc.
  • Long term chronic inflammation can lead to many complications.

What we can do to lower our resting heart rate

  • Stress management — easier said than done, but there are meditation apps, great books and tools we can use. Blog post to follow on this.
  • Alcohol — any reduction at all helps.
  • Diet — anti-inflammatory diets. Links below for suggestions on diet plans.
  • Exercise — low level every day (take the stairs, talk 10'000 steps). Higher levels 1–2 times a week. The acute stresses from high intensity workouts increase heart health over the long term. Mark Sisson covers this really well — see links below.
  • Supplements — Omega3 oils can help improving heart health and reducing inflammation. Magnesium is crucial for heart health, and most of us don’t get nearly enough. Curcumin (extract from turmeric) helps with reducing inflammation.
  • Heat therapy — saunas and ice baths.

How to improve

Everyone is different — genetics, lifestyles, fitness levels. What works for some people may not work for others.

Self experimentation is key. Steps for self-experimentation are:

  1. Track resting heart rate tracking every day — either manually, or with a wearable device.
  2. When resting heart rate is way above normal — investigate potential causes. Stress? Alcohol? Diet? Keep a journal for these observations.
  3. Work on reducing those causes.

If manually measuring heart rate, it will need to be done in a consistent way every day. Lying down before getting out bed is the best.

Tracking with fitness trackers

Fitness trackers can identify our resting heart rates by taking our heart rate while we’re stationary — generally while still asleep just before we wake up.

Three types of trackers available:

  • Wearable devices — e.g. Fitbit Charge HR or the Jawbone Up3
  • Sleep trackers — dedicated devices like the Beddit will track overnight heart rate.
  • Apps — HRV4Training tracks resting heart rate with the iPhone Camera.

Many devices now keep our heart rate history, great for motivation.

Below is the screenshot from the Jawbone UP3 and Fitbit Charge showing the history for the last 30 days:

Jawbone UP3
Fitbit Charge HR 2
Beddit Overnight Heart Rate

You can see above that my resting heart rate is above longer-term averages over the Christmas period, and spikes many days — rich food, alcohol and stress related.

Many of these apps will also give custom tips on how to improve our health & resting heart rate.

Links

Anti-inflammatory diets

Other links