My Resting Heart Rate Is Near 100 B.P.M.
February 4, 2010 10:27 AM   Subscribe

My resting heart rate is over 95 BPM. I feel fine, but should I see a doctor? I don't have medical insurance and not a whole lot of money. Not sure I can afford it.

To add to this, I've been very stressed out lately. But even when I'm resting, my heart rate is high. I woke up this morning, did my normal routine (no coffee this morning, yet) and sat down to start work. I sit at the computer because I'm a writer.

I took my heart rate twice and it averaged at about 101 BPM (once on the neck, the other on the wrist). I thought, "Ok. I should just give it 15 minutes, do a little work and research and take my heart rate again."

15 minutes later, and about 2 minutes prior to posting this, I took my heart rate again. It's still at about 100. Last month, my girlfriend and I were lying in bed with her head on my chest and she said, "Your heart is beating kinda fast." I thought nothing of it and chalked it up to a bit of stress.

Few facts: I don't exercise much. The only exercise I get these days is walking - even then, I don't walk more than two or three miles per week. I'm 28 years old and heart disease runs in my family. I'm 6'1" and about 195 lbs. I probably don't eat as well as I should. Over the past month, because of work and switching publications, I've had several panic attacks (I've had them regularly in the past, but went two or three years without one). I'm not a doctor, but I'd classify that as an anxiety disorder because I couldn't work or do anything whenever I'd get them.

There is no price that one can put on his health, that much I know. However, I just really can't afford a doctor right now. (My last job was paying shit, I've moved to a new publication that pays me more than double, which led to a bit of the stress. The old publication kept counter-offering pathetic numbers to get me to stay.)

Any suggestions? Cheap doctors? I live in the Los Angeles area.
posted by consilience to Health & Fitness (35 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Aerobic exercise.
posted by torquemaniac at 10:36 AM on February 4, 2010

Are you drinking plenty of water? When my resting pulse gets alarmingly high, it's because I'm dehydrated. Have a couple glasses of water and see if it doesn't go down.

My resting heart rate is usually around 60-65, and 95 doesn't sound too unusual at all for the dehydrated version of me.
posted by adiabat at 10:42 AM on February 4, 2010

A little Googling suggests that 100 BPM is sort of the very top end of the normal range. But not really beyond it. So if you feel fine, you probably don't need to go see a doctor based on your heart rate alone.
posted by Perplexity at 10:43 AM on February 4, 2010

Your heart rate could very well be a sign of poor conditioning, but you might want to check it occasionally over the next week or so to see how it varies during the day. You also might want to check your blood pressure as well; that could give additional information as to why your heart rate might be elevated. In addition to improving your fitness, finding a way to deal with your stress might help.
posted by TedW at 10:45 AM on February 4, 2010


I think your pulse is way too high and there might be something wrong.

"no price that one can put on his health" go to the community clinic, I don't know.
posted by mearls at 10:45 AM on February 4, 2010

My resting heart rate used to run in the 90's. I took up running six months ago and right now it's 75. Exercise is the way to go, although I do think a trip to the doctor would be a good idea before beginning any serious program, especially with your family history.
posted by something something at 11:03 AM on February 4, 2010

Exercise and conscious, focused stress-reduction. You may very well be increasing your heart rate just by thinking about it, as well, and the higher it goes, the more that stresses you out. That was the case for me at one point, and my heart rate jumps up high easily when I'm stressed out.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:10 AM on February 4, 2010

You are not really taking your resting heart rate. You're getting your ambient heart rate.

A true resting heart rate would be first the in the morning, after you've woken up naturally (no alarm - the noise, plus getting up to turn it off, will affect your heart rate), and haven't even stood or sat up.

My ambient heart rate is about 100, and my true resting heart rate is extremely low - 49 to mid-50's.
posted by peep at 11:12 AM on February 4, 2010 [3 favorites]

My resting heart rate is around 92 bpm--I asked my doctor about it once, but she was not concerned. I do get a fair amount of exercise but it doesn't really make a difference as far as I can tell. This being AskMe, everyone is going to tell you to see a doctor, and if you're really worried about it, maybe you should. But if that is your only symptom it is entirely possible that you just have a fast pulse.
posted by Jemstar at 11:13 AM on February 4, 2010

Have you ever had your blood pressure checked? Check it at a pharmacy. Talk to the pharmacist and see what they think you should do. They may refer you to a doctor, but its a good place to start.
posted by candasartan at 11:28 AM on February 4, 2010

first the = first thing
posted by peep at 11:31 AM on February 4, 2010

One thing I learned - the more you worry about your heart rate, the faster it'll go... especially if you're obsessing over it or it's making you worried or stressed.
posted by Fat Elvis at 11:35 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Try sitting quietly, breathing deeply and trying clear your mind for a few minutes and then take your pulse again. If it is still above 90 I would very strongly suggest that you consider adding a lot more cardio to your routine (sex counts for this if you are doing it right).

This probably is not going to affect you in the short term, but I (a laymen) cannot imagine it will be healthy in the long run.
posted by BobbyDigital at 11:51 AM on February 4, 2010

There are free clinics in LA, and a big one in Venice. I can't speak to them personally as I'm on the other side of the country, but it's generally a good idea to have a place you can go when you need medical care.

If your pay is low, you may also qualify for Medicaid. The requirements vary a lot from state to state, but in NYC, you can find vans in Chinatown offering private Medicaid insurance who will be happy to let you know if you qualify. I imagine LA has something similar.
posted by abirae at 12:07 PM on February 4, 2010

Thank you abirae for pointing out the Venice Family Clinic. I almost forgot about them.

And thanks to everyone for the responses. Yes, when I worry about my heart rate, it goes up. Crazy, but how am I supposed to take it without my worrying? Also, as a few of you have pointed out, I have not been exercising or drinking much water.

It looks like I've made a mountain out of a molehill. I haven't been exercising, eating healthy or drinking water (my only water intake is either diet soda or coffee). And I've been smoking.

I'm still going to see a doctor when I can, but I'm definitely going to try a few lifestyle changes first.

Thanks again to the MeFi community!
posted by consilience at 12:16 PM on February 4, 2010

IANAD, just reporting a one-rat data point. I've always had highish resting heart rate (high 70's low 80's), but then I got serious about aerobic exercising, and my resting heart rate dropped to high 40's low 50's). The change was noted by my physician (he measured it), on my yearly checkup. Sadly, I've slacked off somewhat since then, (though not totally), and my heart rate crept up to high 60's low 70's. Also, many people who are very serious about meditation and yoga, can lower their resting heart rate (some claim even voluntary control).
posted by VikingSword at 12:19 PM on February 4, 2010

Oh, and if you are going to take up exercise, I have only one piece of advice: take it gradually, and slowly in the beginning. I cannot stress this enough. Your natural instinct is to push yourself. Please don't. Start much slower than you think you can manage. Build up very gradually. We are talking many months, not weeks before hitting "hard" workouts. But on the flip side, keep up that gradual escalation and keep extending it. I think you'll note a drop in your resting heart rate. Ordinarily, I'd say talk to a doctor before you undertake any exercise program, but if you can't, then it is particularly important to start very slow and build up very gradually. Good luck!
posted by VikingSword at 12:26 PM on February 4, 2010

You are not really taking your resting heart rate. You're getting your ambient heart rate.

This is true.

You also don't say whether or not there was a period when your ambient heart rate was significantly lower than it is now. If there has been no change that's different than if there has been a change.

Finally, high heart rate by itself is usually (IAMAD) not as concerning as heart rate that does not decrease quickly after exertion.
posted by OmieWise at 12:51 PM on February 4, 2010

IANAD. IAAPatient.

I have chronic supraventricular tachycardia -- basically, a naturally speedy heartbeat. Without medication, my heart rate never drops below 100. I was diagnosed with it at 19 and have been taking beta blockers for it ever since.

Do see a doctor about it -- a clinic is fine. They may want to do an EKG or ECG to make sure that all of the wiring in your heart is working properly. It might not be, which is why you'd be better off getting this checked now, rather than later.

The thing about a rapid heartbeat is that even when it's not threatening, it's uncomfortable. You might not realize this, because your heart is and has always been beating at 100bpm. As soon as I started taking meds for mine, I can't tell you how much better I felt. I take a pill once a day now; if I miss my dose, I'm miserable. It feels like there's a rowdy dance party going on inside my chest.

So do get it checked out. While it's probably nothing serious, it might be something that should be treated, and you might feel tons better after it is. You should also have it checked out because it could be a symptom of hyperthyroidism. A simple blood test can rule that out.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:59 PM on February 4, 2010

Med student here.

- You have a borderline-abnormal resting heart rate, which is more atypical at your age than it would be in an older person
- You are mostly sedentary, you smoke, your diet is not great and you have a family history of heart disease.
- You probably haven't been seen by a physician for awhile, don't know anything about your blood pressure status, etc.


- You can't afford to go see a doctor?

Dude. Please go see a doctor! Ask Metafilter is not your primary care physician. A basic checkup is not going to cost you a whole lot, even without insurance, and it would really be a shame to let some sort of treatable cardiovascular issue develop into a major problem because you weren't willing to spend a couple of hundred bucks (or less). It's this sort of thinking that lands people in the emergency room at 3AM.

Think of it as an investment not only in your health, but in your peace of mind. Won't you feel better once you KNOW there's nothing physically wrong with you?
posted by killdevil at 1:08 PM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Here's the thing. There are (literally) thousands of things that could be wrong or there might be nothing at all. The best team of the best doctors can't (and wouldn't) diagnose your situation without seeing you, taking a history and asking you some questions.

We can't help you.

The best advice here is for you to go to the clinic or to a doctor who will let you make little or no payments until you are financially able. MediCal can help if you qualify. Staying home and stressing about it is not in your best interest. "Waste" the money on finding out there is nothing wrong or invest the money in finding out how to deal with it. Either way, go see a doctor.
posted by Old Geezer at 1:17 PM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just to balance some above datapoints and support the idea that to some extent this is genetic - my ambient heart rate has never been above 70 even when I was fat and sedentary.
posted by phearlez at 1:35 PM on February 4, 2010

Can't comment on the heart thing except to say yeah, 100 seems pretty high.

But as for the panic attacks: Drastically cutting your caffeine intake will reduce their frequency and severity. I say this from personal experience. Stress + caffeine = panic attack.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 1:40 PM on February 4, 2010

Yea, 6'1", 195, and 28 years old w/ a resting heart rate in the 90's?

Anybody advising that you act in the short term to remedy this by beginning a regimen of aerobic exercise has proffered extremely bad advice and those responses should be deleted.

In the short term, up fluids, decrease caffeine, go to bed earlier. In the medium term, speak to a doctor, even at a free/cheap clinic about the issue. There are a million things that could be wrong, probably nothing major.

A doctor should examine you and will in all probability recommend some aerobic exercise. We are not your doctor, and we should not.
posted by TomMelee at 1:44 PM on February 4, 2010

IT'S NOT HIS RESTING HEART RATE. He (and many of you) are just quite simply wrong about what a RESTING heart rate is.
posted by peep at 2:02 PM on February 4, 2010

Another data point: I've always had a rather high resting heartrate. From my teens to early 30's, it was in the upper 70's to low 80's--which was high but acceptable to me--and I was a regular exerciser back then. Due to extreme workload and chronic back problems in the last 2 years I haven't been able to exercise regularly and now I would say that it's regularly in the high 80's to mid 90's.

So I would vote for increased exercise to see if you could get it down.
posted by choochoo at 2:26 PM on February 4, 2010

Yeah, I'd first try to measure your real resting heart rate.
The best time to find out your resting heart rate is in the morning, after a good night's sleep, and before you get out of bed.
I personally have never had luck remembering to check it in the morning, but I've taken mine late at night while quite relaxed and after lying in bed for awhile. I've seen it get down to the high 40s. (I get a lot of aerobic exercise.) By contrast, it's not atypical for mine to be in the 80s even when I'm just standing round. So even if you think you're "resting" in front of your computer, you might be elevating your HR a good ways above your resting HR.

In the long run, aerobic exercise will do wonders for both your CV system, and if you're like me, your stress levels. But I suppose it would be prudent to make see a doctor first.
posted by epugachev at 2:36 PM on February 4, 2010

You know you need to get in shape, do aerobic and weightlifting workouts, improve your diet. There have been a gazillion posts about how. There's a MeFi group at DailyBurn. Join up, and help people like me get some motivation to get in shape. You'll feel better, really.
posted by theora55 at 2:53 PM on February 4, 2010

Regardless of whether or not it's his resting or merely his ambient, his "just chillin' round the office" rate of ~100 is for a PULSE RATE, not a SYSTOLIC PRESSURE, and is a twee high for a 28 year old.
posted by TomMelee at 2:58 PM on February 4, 2010

his "just chillin' round the office" rate of ~100 is for a PULSE RATE,

But it's not that either. It's his "I'm stressed about my heart rate so I'm going to see what it is" heart rate, with the rider that he knows it goes up when he stresses about it. Even mine goes up around 90 under those circumstances and I'm physically fit with normal ambient and true resting heart rates.

Crazy, but how am I supposed to take it without my worrying?

Do it as soon as you wake up. Don't sit up, don't start thinking about stuff, don't even try to wake up fully. Just groggily grab your watch or whatever and take your pulse. Do it a few days in a row, then take a look at what those numbers mean. Your doctor would need that information anyway if you go see one, might as well find out.

Then make the good lifestyle changes anyway, although be careful with the exercise and ease into any new routine you may start, while you figure out how and when to get a checkup.
posted by shelleycat at 5:21 PM on February 4, 2010

Get off your ass and walk fast, run, climb stairs, etc., with a goal conditioning your heart by making it work harder.

Also, go out and buy a battery powered blood pressure cuff. It will give you your resting heart rate and your blood pressure. Take multiple readings over several weeks, all when you are resting. Write these down. Use the midrange set of values to decide if you have a high heart rate and high blood pressure. If so, take that information to the clinic, and see if they will give you prescriptions for some effective and cheap (generic) medicines to handle your symptoms.

You can use these readings to track your progress with heart training, from your new exercise program. You will possibly have the choice between working out on a regular basis, or taking pills for the rest of your life. Or both, like me.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 5:35 PM on February 4, 2010

Thanks for the responses, everyone. I used to be extremely active: I did weights 3 or 4 times a week, I played tennis or basketball very competitively for years (mostly volleyball and football in high school), and I used to take care of myself. I was very physically active.

An injury from a motorcycle accident put an end to most sports, and my sedentary job turned my active life into a boring, sedate one.

I'll see the doctor as soon as I can. I continued to take it throughout the day today, especially after being seated for about 15 to 20 minutes at a time, and it was the same - about 100 B.P.M.

I've just been really stressed out with work, interviews, budgeting and all that crap. I'm sure I've been nothing but a nightmare for my girlfriend.

I will report back on what the doctor says for the benefit of others in a similar situation as soon as I find out.
posted by consilience at 9:39 PM on February 4, 2010

I continued to take it throughout the day today, especially after being seated for about 15 to 20 minutes at a time, and it was the same - about 100 B.P.M.

But none of these give you your resting heart rate! And you're still worrying about it so of course it's still high.

Stop taking it during the day, it's not telling you anything. Take a true resting heart rate first thing in the morning over the next couple of days, look at what that number means, then give it a rest while you work out what to do. More stress is the last thing you need and that's the only thing you're getting out of this repeated incorrect measurement.
posted by shelleycat at 10:18 PM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

My doctors were concerned when my pulse rate was 100 even after lying flat in bed for half an hour, when I was not worrying. That seemed to be their cut-off for concern, 100 bpm, but only if I were truly resting at the time, which does not sound at all like what you're doing. Don't even bother taking your pulse while you are sitting around worrying, as the information you get is totally useless.

My elevated heart rate turned out to be caused by taking Zyrtec, the antihistamine, without any decongestant (not Zyrtec-D, with pseudoephedrine). It took a long time to track this down because the problem did not go away after skipping the medication for a day or two, but instead took a whole week, and also because, while everyone knows that decongestants cause elevated heart rate, few know that antihistamines alone sometimes do the same. Ironically, Zyrtec is the least likely of all the antihistamines to do this; Benedryl is the most.

In your case I'm betting that what you need most is some way of dealing better with your stress levels. Obsessing about your heart rate is probably the worst thing you can do.
posted by Ery at 6:09 AM on February 5, 2010

I'd try cutting down on caffeine a bit, taking in plenty of water, and then checking your heart rate again. Fixing dehydration is a whole lot easier and faster than adding aerobic exercise, and it might make a big difference. Getting most of your fluid from diet soda (esp. if it's caffeinated) and coffee isn't healthy.

(I'm not suggesting that you don't add aerobic exercise or see a doctor; just that you could start drinking more water now.)
posted by insectosaurus at 8:13 AM on February 5, 2010

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