What is the definition of heart rate


Heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute. It’s a vital sign that doctors use to assess your overall health. Knowing your heart rate can be useful in determining the underlying cause of any changes in your body that can indicate a medical issue.

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • the definition of heart rate;
  • how to measure it;
  • how it can be used to assess your health.

Definition of Heart Rate

Heart rate, or pulse rate, is the number of times your heart contracts and relaxes in a given period of time. It is a vital sign that reflects the amount of work your heart needs to do to circulate the blood throughout the body. It can be used as a gauge of overall health status or to monitor certain conditions, such as an exercise trainer measuring his client’s heart rate for fitness goals.

While there is no single “normal” heart rate, generally speaking one’s pulse should fall within a certain range depending on age and activity level. Normal resting adult rates typically range from 60-100 beats per minute (bpm). During vigorous exercise, one’s heart rate may increase to 140-160 bpm or more. A newborn’s average resting pulse can range from 100 -160 bpm; by adulthood it should settle into this lower range over time. Aging will affect one’s heart rate; usually it slows with age due to physical changes in the cardiovascular system. Irregular pulse patterns may also indicate underlying medical conditions that should be evaluated by a medical practitioner right away.

Anatomy of the Heart

The heart is a muscular organ responsible for oxygenating and circulating blood throughout the body. As your heart beats, it pumps blood through a network of arteries and veins which is known as the circulatory system. The rate at which your heart beats is called your heart rate, and it is an important measure of your overall health.

In this article, we will take a closer look at the anatomy of the heart and discuss what your heart rate is and how it is determined.

Structure of the Heart

The heart is a muscular structure located in the thoracic cavity of the chest, between the lungs and slightly left of center. It is responsible for pumping and receiving oxygenated blood from lungs to other organs throughout the body and vice versa. The heart has four chambers: two superior atria, which receive incoming blood; and two inferior ventricles which pump outgoing blood. It also has valves that open up for delivering oxygenated blood away from the heart and close to prevent backflow into it.

Part of understanding a healthy heart rate is knowing its basic anatomy:

  • Atria: The upper two chambers that receive blood from veins into the heart during diastole – when pressure in the chamber are low.
  • Ventricles: Lower chambers of the heart; sending outblood during systole – when pressure in these chambers are high).
  • Valves: Regulate flow of blood throughoutheart – one way in, one way out.
  • Aorta: Large arteriesat located at top of left ventricle that carries freshly oxygenated blood away to other organs throughoutbody.
  • Pulmonary artery: Major artery atbottom of right ventricle that carries deoxygenated blood returning to lungs for reoxygenation.

Function of the Heart

The heart is one of the most essential organs in the human body, functioning as a powerful pump that circulates oxygen, nutrition and other essential compounds through the entire body. The rhythmic beating of the heart is regulated by electrical signals generated by cells located in the sinoatrial (SA) node.

This produces an electrical current throughout the four chambers of the heart and significantly affects its function as well as your overall health.

  • The right atrium and ventricles collect deoxygenated blood from various parts of your body before sending it to your lungs for purification.
  • The left chamber collects freshly oxygenated blood from your lungs before circulating it to various parts of your body via a variety of arteries and veins.

Your heart rate is determined by two factors: frequency (how fast it is beating), and rhythm (whether its beats are regular). It is important to keep track of both factors as they can indicate potential medical issues if abnormal patterns persist over time. Your heart rate can also be changed by different factors such as exercise, stress levels, diet or medication so it’s important to speak with a healthcare provider if you’re concerned about any changes in your heart rate or rhythm.

Measuring Heart Rate

Heart rate is defined as the number of times in a minute that a person’s heart beats. It is measured in beats per minute (BPM) and generally speaking, a healthy adult will have a resting heart rate of between 60 and 100 BPM. Heart rate can be used as an indicator of overall heart health.

Measuring heart rate can be done in various ways, let’s take a look at the different methods:

Manual Method

One way to measure your heart rate manually is to find your pulse and count the number of beats you feel in 30 seconds. You can use a watch or clock with a second hand to make things easier. Place your index and middle fingers on the inside of your wrist, below the base of the thumb. You should feel your pulse; it might take a few seconds for you to find it. Count how many beats occur in 30 seconds, then multiply that number by two. This is called taking a “manual pulse“.

In addition, you can also measure your heart rate by using advanced technology such as heart rate monitors, which are often worn on wrists. They keep track of how many times your heart beats per minute (BPM) without you having to do any counting, saving time and energy compared with manually measuring heart rate. Heart rate monitors come with more features, such as reading calorie burn and distance tracking when used in conjunction with applications or devices such as Fitbit or Garmin.

Electronic Method

Electronic methods vary, but all involve some type of sensor that detects the electrical impulses produced by your heart muscle as it contracts. The most common method is electrocardiography, which involves attaching electrodes to the skin and detecting tiny electrical charges on the surface of the skin that are generated by your heart.

Another method is photoplethysmography (PPG), which uses a light-based sensor on the skin to detect small changes in blood volume with each heartbeat. A radar system called impedance cardiography (ICG) measures changes in your body’s electrical resistance as blood flows through major arteries with each heartbeat. It’s also possible to measure heart rate by using ultrasound technology and tracking sound waves as they bounce off your coronary arteries.

Factors Affecting Heart Rate

Heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute. It can be affected by a variety of factors such as exercise, stress, age, and medications. Understanding how your heart rate is impacted by these factors can help you to better monitor your health and ensure your heart rate remains in a healthy range.

Let’s look at the different factors that can affect your heart rate:


When we exercise, the physical activity requires an increased amount of oxygen. Our heart responds to this need by increasing the number of heartbeats per minute to deliver more blood and oxygen to the muscles. This is known as our exercise heart rate. It is measured in beats per minute (BPM) and typically ranges from 50-85 % of a person’s maximum heart rate (MHR).

Researchers have developed different equation models for calculating exercise heart rates, however, no single formula is considered perfect for everyone as numerous factors can affect our individual BPMs during physical activity.

Age: One of the major influencing factors of our MHR and in turn exercise heart rate is age. Generally speaking younger adults have higher resting heart rates than older adults due to age-related physiological declines that are part of the normal aging process. This reduction in MHR means that if exercising with an elevated pulse should not be done because it puts an extra strain on their cardiovascular system, potentially leading to medical complications in some cases; understanding your own personal MHR profile is therefore important for safe exercising.

Other factors such as pre-existing medical conditions can also influence exercise intensity – people affected by arthritis or those with joint swelling should aim for lower intensity activities like speed walking or swimming, while people with healthy joints may use higher aerobic workouts such as running or cycle sprints. Ultimately, regardless of our age or physical condition, we should always consult with a doctor before engaging in any type of physical activity and aim for a safe but effective exercise regime tailored to us personally.


Stress is a major risk factor for increased heart rate. When our body experiences stress, it initiates a cascade of physiological changes, preparing us to respond to danger or a threat. This process releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones increase activity in the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), leading to an increase in heart rate.

This response is sometimes referred to as fight, flight or freeze. It’s a primitive adaptive response that helps us either fight off or flee from a threat. When this response is activated, it causes our heart rate to rise drastically by increasing the contractile force and frequency of cardiac muscle cells. As this occurs, the ability of the body to use oxygen and energy increases, providing more power for responding quickly during times of psychological stress.


Medication is one of the many factors that can affect resting heart rate. It is important to understand the drugs one is taking and how they could be affecting their heart rate.

Stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine, can increase your heart rate, while anti-anxiety medications, antihistamines and drugs for high blood pressure can slow your heartbeat. Sleep medications can also interfere with a normal heart rate. Even certain herbal supplements like ephedra and guarana, which are often found in energy drinks, could have an effect on your resting heart rate.

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions or concerns about medication affecting your heart rate.


After reviewing the definition of heart rate, we can conclude that it is a valuable marker of health and can be used to track performance in athletes as well as for diagnosing medical conditions. Heart rate can also be used to predict heart health and to monitor progress in those with cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, it is an important indicator of overall health and should be monitored regularly.

Summary of Heart Rate

Heart rate is a measure of the number of times a person’s heart beats in one minute. Also known as pulse rate, it can be measured manually by feeling the pulse on the side of your neck or wrist, or electronically using a heart rate monitor. An average resting heart rate will typically range between 60 to 100 beats per minute in adults and over 100 bpm in children and teenagers.

The interpretation of your heart rate depends on various factors such as age, gender, physical fitness level, health status, medication use and environmental conditions. Generally speaking, a lower resting heart rate indicates better physical fitness level. It may also indicate certain medical concerns if it falls below the “normal” range. For people who are considered to be physically fit, their resting heart rates are usually below 60 bpm and their maximum heart rates may range from 120 to 180 bpm depending on age.

Heart rate is an important indicator of cardiovascular health that can provide helpful insight into the functioning of your circulatory system. Monitoring your own resting and maximum heart rates can allow you to be proactive about your health by bringing any issues or changes to your physician’s attention earlier rather than later.