While I’m at the medical center or talking to my friends about cardiac health, the difference between blood pressure and heart rate rarely comes up. It seems that most people think of them together as one. But just the other day it did come up and the topic created many good conversation and debate. I’ve done a lot of research on the topic and decided to write this article to explain the difference between blood pressure and heart rate (resource). You may be surprised at what I discovered!
What is the difference between blood pressure and heart rate? Your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute and is recorded with 1 number. Blood pressure is the amount of pressure on the walls of blood vessels when the blood is pumped into the vessels and is recorded with 2 numbers. There are times when they move up and down together, and times when they don’t.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that when you step into a doctor’s office the nurse almost always takes your blood pressure and pulse readings one after the other. Even the home blood pressure monitors tell you 2 vital signs, your blood pressure and heart rate. Hospitals have been using electronic vital sign monitors for over 40 years and although many of them display a bunch of readings, usually the 2 that the patient and visitors are familiar with are the blood pressure and heart rate.
Therefore, it seems that the 2 readings are always tied together, you’ll never see one without the other, just like an older married couple walking hand in hand. Is the relationship between blood pressure and heart rate the same as the old married couple? Do they stay together, go up or down together at the same pace or do they have a mind of their own and wander away from each other? The blood pressure and heart rate relationship may not be as simple as you think. To understand the difference between blood pressure and heart rate first lets define each one.
Blood Pressure And Heart Rate (Pulse) Definitions
The two are both vital signs but they both measure 2 completely different things that are happening inside your body. The 2 definitions indicate the difference between blood pressure and heart rate.
Your heart rate or pulse is the number of times your heart beats per minute and is recorded with 1 number. As the heart pumps, the arteries expand and contract, this is the pulse and is what you feel when you are taking your pulse (resource). This expansion is caused by an increase in blood pressure pushing against the walls of the arteries every time the heart beats.
A normal heart rate varies from person to person. It depends on the individual, age, body size, heart condition and more. Knowing your heart rate can be an important gauge for your heart health. As you get older, changes in the heart rate and regularity of your pulse can change. These changes may signify a heart condition or other medical condition that needs to be addressed.
In addition to heart rate, Blood pressure is another one of the vital signs. The heart is responsible for supplying blood to the organs and tissues of your body. To do this, your heart pumps blood into large vessels of the circulatory system every time it beats. The blood pumped into these vessels puts pressure on the walls of the vessels. That pressure on the walls of the blood vessels is indicated by taking your Blood pressure (resource).
A normal blood pressure reading is an upper number less than 120 and a lower number less than 80. Just like pulse, your blood pressure can vary depending on a number of factors. Monitoring your blood pressure is an extremely important gauge for heart health and other conditions.
The Difference How Blood Pressure And Heart Rate Increases Or Decreases
When monitoring your health both readings can show how well your heart is working and can signal cardiac problems. High blood pressure can lead to major health issues like heart attack, stroke and kidney disease. An abnormal heart rate for an extended period can lead to fainting spells, blood clots or heart failure. The relationship and difference between blood pressure and heart rate are not simple and vary in the following 5 different situations (resource).
- Blood pressure and heart rate can both decrease at the same time: An example of this would be a typical fainting episode, fatigue or a feeling of weakness. This can be triggered by medications, emotional trauma, illness, dehydration or standing up too quickly.
- Blood pressure and heart rate can increase rise at the same time: Examples of this would be when exercising, getting angry, feeling stress and anxiety or an overactive thyroid.
- Blood pressure can increase and the heart rate can decrease: Then there are times when an increase in blood pressure can drop the heart rate. This can be caused by certain medications, brain injury, internal bleeding and thickened heart tissue. This can also make you feel dizzy, faint, tired or shortness of breath.
- Blood pressure can decrease and the heart rate can increase: This can happen if you are dehydrated, bleeding or have a severe infection. When blood pressure decreases, the heart can speed up and contract more frequently to increase blood flow and increase blood pressure.
- When your blood pressure and heart rate fall or rise at the same time usually they won’t move at the same rate: A perfect example of this is during exercise when your heart rate increases but blood pressure may stay the same or increase to a lesser extent. This happens because even though your heart is beating more times a minute, healthy blood vessels will get larger to allow more blood to flow through more easily.
The body has mechanisms to alter or maintain blood pressure and blood flow. There are sensors that detect blood pressure in the walls of the arteries. These sensors send signals to the heart, the arterioles, the veins, and the kidneys that cause them to make changes that lower or increase blood pressure and heart rate. You can see blood pressure and heart rate are not always linked and they are two separate measurements and indicators of health.
The Different Factors That Affect Blood Pressure And Heart Rate (Pulse)
Factors Affecting Heart Rate: The following are different factors that can change either your blood pressure or rate (resource).
- Body Position: Changing your body position can change your heart rate. Usually your heart rate stays the same whether you are sitting or standing while relaxing. But if you stand up your pulse may go up a little for 15-20 seconds before settling back down to where it was before.
- Body Temperature: If you become too hot or too cold your body senses a thermal stress load. Blood is sent to your skin to enhance heat dissipation to cool you or increases blood flow to warm you.
- Air Temperature: When temperatures get very hot, the heart pumps more blood so your heart rate may increase, but usually no more than five to 10 beats a minute.
- Emotions: Your emotions can raise your pulse if you are stressed, anxious or extremely happy or sad.
- Body Size: Body size usually doesn’t change the pulse but if you’re overweight you might see a higher resting pulse than normal.
- Medications: Depending on the medication it can either increase or decrease your heart rate. Medications like beta blockers tend to slow your pulse, while too much thyroid medication or too high of a dosage will raise your heart rate.
- Physical Activity: Walking uphill, running, lifting weights and similar activities will raise your heart rate. This is to facilitate the increased demand for oxygen and carbon monoxide removal to and from the muscles. In the long-term, exercise can decrease your resting heart rate and is considered a healthy thing.
- Illness: Certain Illnesses or a signal that an illness is coming will raise your heart rate.
- Dehydration: As you become more hydrated your blood becomes thicker and volume decreases. This causes your heart to work harder by beating faster.
- Insufficient Sleep: This can increase your heart rate.
- Eating: Right after eating a meal your heart rate will increase to help your body digest the food. More blood is sent to the gastrointestinal tract to process the food. The more you eat the longer your heart rate will stay increased.
- Age: Your maximum heart rate decreases as you get older because of the physiological effects of aging, such as telomere shortening and associated deconditioning.
- Gender: Women can have a faster heart rate because they generally have a smaller body. A smaller body with less muscle requires a faster heart rate to aid in metabolism.
- Caffeinated Beverages: Caffeine is a stimulant that causes the nervous system to increase your heart rate.
Now lets move on to the other vital sign, Blood Pressure.
Factors Affecting Blood Pressure
- Gender: Up to age 64, men are more likely to get high blood pressure than women are. At age 65 and older, women are more likely to get high blood pressure.
- Race: African-Americans are more likely to develop high blood pressure than any other racial background in the United States.
- Chronic Kidney Disease: High Blood Pressure may occur as a result of kidney disease. And, having HBP may also cause further kidney damage.The amount of blood the heart is pumping through your circulatory system.
- The resistance of the arteries to blood flow: As the arteries constrict, the resistance increases and as they dilate (open up), resistance decreases.
- Nutrition: A diet too high in calories, saturated and trans fat and sugar carry an increased risk of high blood pressure. Making healthy food choices can actually help lower blood pressure.
- Obesity: Excess weight puts an extra strain on your heart and circulatory system that can cause severe health problems. It also increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Arterial stiffness: The stiffer and harder the blood vessel walls, the more the heart has to work to pump blood into the arteries.
- Physical activity: BP will vary depending your health, emotional state and activity. Not getting enough physical activity increases your risk of getting high blood pressure. If you’re not getting enough activity because of mobility issues, you may want to check out mobility scooters I recommend by clicking here.
- Age: The risk of high blood pressure increases with age. This is mainly due to an increase of artery stiffness, a build up of plaque and an increased incidence of cardiac and vascular disease.
- Family History: If your parents or other close relatives have high blood pressure, there’s an increased chance that you can get it too.
- Bad habits: Smoking, illegal drugs and excess alcohol can all increase your blood pressure.
- Stress: Stress and anxiety will release stress hormones that cortisol. This will cause your blood vessels to constrict raising your blood pressure. In addition, excess stress may encourage harmful behaviors that increase blood pressure.
Blood Pressure And Heart Rate Consequences
Heart Rate Consequences
It’s normal to have a faster heart rate temporarily due to the factors listed above. But if you have an increased heart at rest, you might have a condition called tachycardia. The complications can vary depending on the type of tachycardia, the existence of other heart ailments and the duration and rate of rapid heart rate. Possible consequences can include (resource):
- Blood clots that can cause a heart attack or stroke
- Frequent fainting or unconsciousness
- Heart failure
- Sudden death, typically associated with ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia
Blood Pressure Consequences
High blood pressure is something you definitely want to avoid because it can lead to more severe health issues like:
- Heart Attack
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Heart Failure
- Kidney Disease/Failure
- Vision Loss
- Sexual Dysfunction
- Peripheral Artery Disease
How To Check & Record Blood Pressure And Heart Rate (Pulse)
Even though both of theses vital signs are always recorded and seen together, they are not checked the same way.
How To Check Heart Rate (Pulse)
The best places on the body to find your pulse are:
- The Wrists
- Side Of Your Neck
- Inside Your elbow
- Top Of The Foot
To get the most accurate heart rate reading, put your finger over your pulse and count the number of beats in 60 seconds. Do not use your thumb because you may feel your pulse through the artery in the thumb which may interfere with your reading (resource).
Your resting heart rate is how many times your heart is beating while at rest, relaxing, sitting or lying down. A normal resting heart rate can range anywhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Active people like athletes or runners often have a lower resting heart rate, as low as 40. This is because their heart muscle is in better condition and doesn’t need to work as hard to maintain a steady beat.
How To Check And Record Blood Pressure
Blood Pressure is checked with a blood pressure monitor. A Nurse will wrap an inflatable cuff around your upper arm. They’ll inflate the cuff to a pressure higher than your systolic blood pressure and it will tighten around your arm. The pressure in the cuff is then released. As the cuff deflates, the nurse will listen to the blood moving through your artery with a stethoscope (resource).
The first sound he/she hears through the stethoscope is the systolic blood pressure (the upper blood pressure number). This sound is a whooshing noise. The point where this noise goes away is the diastolic blood pressure (the lower blood pressure number).
The first number is your Systolic Blood Pressure. This number indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when the heart beats. The second number is your Diastolic Blood Pressure. This number indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is resting between beats.
Many people like monitoring their blood pressure at home. Consistently checking your blood pressure at home is more important than receiving isolated, sometimes inaccurate readings at the doctor’s office. If you are interested in doing the same, you can check out very affordable home blood pressure monitors and sphygmomanometers in this same website on the BP products page.
Does your heart beat faster when breathing in? When you are naturally breathing in your heart beats slightly faster. This is because your heart rate is tied in to your breathing rate in a phenomenon called respiratory sinus arrhythmia. Your heart rate will decrease again when you breath back out.
When should I worry about heart palpitations? You should worry about heart palpitations and seek medical attention if they are lasting longer than a few seconds and you have any of the following symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
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If you found this Blood Pressure topic interesting check out these related blood pressure articles also found in this same website:
- Blood Pressure Explained – What Actually Is BP
- Diastolic Blood Pressure: What You Need To Know
- Lower Blood Pressure Naturally With 3 Easy, Quick Methods