As far as your heart goes, it's wise to keep track of your blood pressure and your pulse. I like looking at pulse as well as heart rate because it gives me a good indication of my current fitness. i.e. normally the lower the pulse the better shape (in younger people). There is a condition called bradycardia and it usually affects older adults (>65). Bradycardia is a deterioration of the electrical system of the heart. Bradycardia lowers the pulse rate in older adults. There are also many drugs out on the market place that lower pulse rate. When I'm not in shape, my heart rate/pulse is normally around 65bpm. When I'm in-shape it's generally in the mid to high 40s. Currently my resting pulse is 47bpm. This past May when I was out-of-shape my pulse was 65bpm. So, in 5 months I was able to lower my pulse (resting heart rate) almost 20 beats per minute due to eating healthy and exercising.
What's a normal heart rate/pulse? According to the Mayo Clinic anything from 60-100bpm is considered normal. (Although to me, anything over 80 seems high). Generally, a lower heart rate at rest implies more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness. An elite athlete might have a normal resting heart rate closer to 40bpm or even in the high 30s.
So, what's a normal blood pressure? According to the American Heart Association the recommended or normal blood pressure is 120/80, read one twenty over eighty. The top number is the systolic blood pressure measured in millimeters of mercury (mm-Hg). Systolic pressure is the pressure that the blood exerts on the artery walls when your heart pumps. The bottom number is the diastolic pressure measured in mm Hg. Diastolic pressure is the pressure that the blood exerts on the artery walls when your heart is resting or in-between beats/pumps. Here's a chart from the AMA:
My current blood pressure and heart rate is: 107/71 mm-Hg with a pulse of 47bpm. That's with taking no prescription medication. I take my blood pressure and heart rate at least once per month. I try to make a habit of checking it once per week. A lot of the CVS/Rite Aid pharmacies have blood pressure machines/monitors that are calibrated regularly. I used to use them but I bought one for home instead. It's made by Omron and is one of the most reliable home blood pressure monitors on the market (according to my research). It takes 3 readings/tests and gives you the average. It also stores the information in the unit for future comparison. I'm not sure of the price but I think it cost $100. Yes, it's a little pricey but with the higher price you get higher accuracy/reliability. I don't calibrate the unit but I do compare the readings with the local pharmacy blood pressure monitors to make sure it's comparable/in-line.
Is high blood pressure really a big deal? I think so. Here's a pictorial of what high blood pressure can do to your body:
Vision Loss- High blood pressure can strain or damage blood vessels in the eyes.
Kidney Disease- High blood pressure can damage the arteries around the kidneys and interfere with their ability to effectively filter blood.
Sexual Dysfunction- This can be erectile dysfunction in men or lower libido in women.
Heart Failure-The increased workload from high blood pressure can cause the heart to enlarge and fail to supply blood to the body.
Stroke- High blood pressure can cause blood vessels in the brain to burst or clog more easily.
Next time you're in the pharmacy (or doctors office) get your blood pressure taken and ask what your pulse is. Or better yet, buy a blood pressure monitor for your home. I think it's worth it. Until then, eat healthy and keep riding your bike.
Power ON! Coach Rob