Fitness News for Senior Citizens

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High resting heart rate linked to increased death risk

Resting heart rate over 80 beats/min meant 45% higher risk of death than 60-80 beats/min

Woman check pulse while exercisingNov. 23, 2015 – The average resting heart rate for senior citizens and other adults is 60 to 100 beats per minute, according to the National Institute of Health. A large new study says a higher resting heart rate is associated with an increased risk of death from all causes in the general population.

This is true even in people without the usual risk factors for heart disease, according this new research published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Your resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute while it’s at rest. You can check it in the morning after you’ve had a good night’s sleep and before you get out of bed.

 “Generally, a lower heart rate at rest implies more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness,” according to the Mayo Clinic. “For example, a well-trained athlete might have a normal resting heart rate closer to 40 beats a minute.”


The existing evidence for resting heart rate and risk of death and risk of death from heart disease has been inconsistent, according to the researchers.

"The association of resting heart rate with risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality is independent of traditional risk factors of cardiovascular disease, suggesting that resting heart rate is a predictor of mortality in the general population," writes Dr. Dongfeng Zhang, Medical College of Qingdao University, Shandong, China, with coauthors.

To understand if resting heart rate is correlated with an increased risk of death, they evaluated 46 studies involving 1,246,203 patients and 78,349 deaths from all causes, and 848,320 patients and 25,800 deaths from heart disease.

"Results from this meta-analysis suggest the risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality increased by 9% and 8% for every 10 beats/min increment of resting heart rate," write the authors.

"The risk of all-cause mortality increased significantly with increasing resting heart rate in a linear relation, but a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular mortality was observed at 90 beats/min ... consistent with the traditionally defined tachycardia threshold of 90 or 100 beats/min for prevention of cardiovascular disease."

The authors found that people with a resting heart rate of more than 80 beats/min had a 45% higher risk of death from any cause than those with a resting heart rate of 60-80 beats/min, who had a 21% increased risk.

The absolute risk, however, is still small, they say.

Findings were similar for people with cardiovascular risk factors.

"The available evidence does not fully establish resting heart rate as a risk factor, but there is no doubt that elevated resting heart rate serves as a marker of poor health status," states Dr. Zhang.

"Our results highlight that people should pay more attention to their resting heart rate for their health, and also indicate the potential importance of physical activity to lower resting heart rate."

The authors note the limitation that various factors can affect measurement of resting heart rate and that nighttime heart rate could be a better risk predictor.

"The magnitude of association between resting heart rate and all-cause mortality was stronger than that with cardiovascular mortality, and this discrepancy can be expected because resting heart rate has been also found to be associated with noncardiovascular mortality," write the authors.

They call for more research to develop an algorithm that considers both resting heart rate and cardiovascular risk factors to help doctors assess resting heart rate in clinical care.

The American Heart Association says:

Your resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute while it’s at rest. You can check it in the morning after you’ve had a good night’s sleep and before you get out of bed.

According to the National Institute of Health, the average resting heart rate:

         for children 10 years and older, and adults (including seniors) is 60 - 100 beats per minute

         for well-trained athletes is 40 - 60 beats per minute.

Hittin’ the Target

How to determine your target training heart rate. As you exercise, periodically:

         Take your pulse on the inside of your wrist, on the thumb side.

         Use the tips of your first two fingers (not your thumb) to press lightly over the blood vessels on your wrist.

         Count your pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by 6 to find your beats per minute. You want to stay between 50 percent to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. This range is your target heart rate. 

Know Your Numbers

This table shows estimated target heart rates for different ages. Your maximum heart rate is about 220 minus your age.

In the age category closest to yours, read across to find your target heart rate. Heart rate during moderately intense activities is about 50-69% of your maximum heart rate, whereas heart rate during hard physical activity is about 70% to less than 90% of the maximum heart rate.

The figures are averages, so use them as general guidelines.


Target HR Zone 50-85%

Average Maximum HR, 100%

20 years

100-170 beats per minute

200 beats per minute

30 years

95-162 beats per minute

190 beats per minute

35 years

93-157 beats per minute

185 beats per minute

40 years

90-153 beats per minute

180 beats per minute

45 years

88-149 beats per minute

175 beats per minute

50 years

85-145 beats per minute

170 beats per minute

55 years

83-140 beats per minute

165 beats per minute

60 years

80-136 beats per minute

160 beats per minute

65 years

78-132 beats per minute

155 beats per minute

70 years

75-128 beats per minute

150 beats per minute

>> More at American Heart Association

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