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This week's column:

Is My Heart Rate Too Fast?

Dec. 12, 2012




QDear, Bill: I'm a 70-year-old male with an l8-year-old body and a 19-year-old heart. Just kidding! But I do watch what I eat (lots of salmon and broccoli), I go to the gym regularly (and have for decades), and I don’t smoke. My blood pressure and cholesterol are low and I am not overweight. But recently I have noticed on several occasions — and on different machines at the gym — that instead of staying around 130 beats per minute, my heart rate jumped to 190 or so. It then quickly dropped when I stop heavy exertion. Is this cause for concern? Thanks for your thoughts. - Chuck from North Carolina.

Ask the Coach!

Congratulations, Chuck. You have outdone me. Though my mind is still young — a Chinese woman recently described me as having “the age of 64, the features of a 40-year-old, and the mind of a 20-year-old” — I have pushed myself hard for years without looking after myself very well.

As a result. I am carrying some extra pounds, and my blood pressure and resting heart rate are both up. These days, I struggle walking up even a slight incline, let alone a hill.

Though it sounds like you are in good shape, your racing heart rate is cause for concern. I am not a doctor, so I can’t tell you exactly what is happening. But you should get it checked out.

As you may know, the standard calculation for maximum heart rate is 220 minus a person’s age. In your case, that would be 150. So you are well above the average.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you have a problem. Some athletes have maximum heart rates significantly above or below the norm.

But you should have yourself checked out by a sports physician or cardiologist to rule out any problems. The reason I suggest a sports physician is that he or she should be familiar with the effects of exertion on heart rates.

Get yourself an appointment as soon as possible. It's better to be careful than to end up in intensive care.

Cheers, Bill

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