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8 Reasons to Monitor Your Heart Rate

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    You'll Know Your Starting Point

    Monitoring your heart rate first thing in the morning—as in, before you even sit up in bed for that glass of hot lemon water—secures a baseline measurement that helps you determine when your rate is too high, too low or just right (you know, like Goldilocks). Lino Velo, PhD, vice president of advanced R&D for LifeTrak, suggests lying in bed for a few moments after waking (so your body can adjust to being awake) and then measuring.

    No heart rate monitor? Gently place two fingers on your neck or wrist, directly on the artery, and count the number of pulses for 30 seconds. Multiply that by two to get the number of beats per minute. This is your resting heart rate, or the time when your heart is pumping the least amount of blood you need because you're not exercising. The average heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute, according to the American Heart Association, but Velo says athletes can dip lower into the 40 to 60 range. But be warned: Stress and illness can spike your heart rate, so make sure you're feeling top-notch to get the most accurate reading.

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    You'll Know When You're Dehydrated

    Your heart rate can increase when you're dehydrated, explains Velo. Of course, an increased heart rate can indicate other issues (see subsquent slides). But if you're feeling dizzy when you stand up or sit down quickly, and your heart starts beating faster, you may be dehydrated. See, when you're fully hydrated and move from a sitting to standing position, your blood pressure drops for a few seconds, but then your heart rate speeds up to quickly restabilize that pressure, says Velo. But if you're dehydrated, there's not enough fluid in the blood and there's a decrease in flow to the brain. Your nogger senses that condition, signaling the heart to beat faster and causing a bout of dizziness. So next time you feel light-headed when you stand up after spending time at the computer, grab a glass of H20 for good measure.

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    You'll Chill Out

    Keeping tabs on your ticker throughout the day, with the help of monitors in the form of a watch or wristband, can tip you off when you're dealing with a lot of stress. If you notice your heart rate is higher when you're working on a big presentation, or when you're slammed with an unexpected deadline, that's a sign you need to relax. Velo suggests taking a few moments to meditate. Not only can it help lower your numbers, but it can also recenter your focus so you nail that all-important project.

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    You Can Avoid the Flu

    A higher than normal heart rate (by about 10 to 15 beats per minute) could be a sign that you're fighting an illness, like the cold or flu. A rapid heart rate is one of many signs of the flu, and if it accompanies other symptoms like fever, body aches, and cough, then get to your doctor ASAP to see what you can do. If you don't experience other symptoms, though, simply take extra precautions to make sure your health is up to snuff—following proper cold-prevention procedures and getting your flu shot are good places to start (plus, you could score this extra heart-healthy benefit).

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    You Can Monitor Your Progress

    Not sure if you're stuck in a fitness rut? Measure your heart rate. As you progress through a routine, your numbers lower because your heart has become stronger and more efficient, and you burn fewer calories, says Mike Herlihy, senior product specialist for Polar, a company that specializes in developing heart rate monitors and sports watches. "If you see your heart rate drop after doing the same routine for a few weeks, then you're becoming accustomed to the exercise," he says. "When that happens, mix up your activity with different intensities and durations." So instead of going for your usual steady-state run, mix in some high-speed interval training or head to the local CrossFit box to challenge your bod in a new way.

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    You Can Manage a Health Condition

    When you're dealing with an ongoing medical condition that requires the use of medication (like high blood pressure), your doctor will say your heart rate needs to stay within a certain BPM (beats per minute) range. That's because there's often a beta blocker—which blocks adrenaline and lowers heart rate—in the medicine, so it's important to make sure the dosage doesn't cause your number to dip too low. The American Heart Association says keeping tabs on your heart rate will help your doctor better determine whether you should change a dosage or switch to a new medication entirely.

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    You'll Make the Most of Your Workout

    When it's time to #makefithappen, your heart rate is going to cruise to a much higher level simply because your body needs more oxygen and blood to accommodate the higher level of activity. Here's how to figure out your maximum active heart rate. Once you've got those numbers down, the key is to stay within 74 to 84 percent of that range when working out as a beginner, or 85 to 94 percent for 12- to 20-minute intervals if weight loss is the name of your game, says Ellen Latham, cofounder of Orangetheory Fitness, a boutique studio that specializes in heart-rate-monitored workout programs. "Tracking your heart rate during a workout allows you to push your heart in a controlled manner, as opposed to the old boot-camp mentality that harder is always better," she says. "It allows me to work with people of all fitness levels and successfully, and progressively, improve their cardiovascular system." In other words, what works best for your bestie isn't necessarily what your heart needs, so training with a heart rate monitor can help you pinpoint the proper zone that'll give you the most bang for your sweaty buck.

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    It Could Save Your Life

    An irregular heart beat is one of the most common signs of arrhythmia, an abnormal heart rhythm that can lead to an often-fatal cardiac arrest if not treated correctly, according to the American Heart Association. If you monitor your heart rate on the reg, it'll be easier for you to notice when something has gone awry. In other words, catching those heart rate changes as early as possible could help your doctor determine a course of action quickly and avoid something serious—even fatal—from occurring.

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    Top Trackers

    Ready to hop in the zone? Here are a few of our favorite trackers:

    Polar A300: Perfect for all-day monitoring, this watch combines an activity tracker with heart rate monitoring and fitness data, giving you a comprehensive look at your full day of heart beats. ($160,

    LifeTrak C410W: Based off the uber-popular C410, this women's-specific fitness tracker measures heart rate, filters out false steps and automatically knows when you fall asleep or wake up so you can accurately measure sleep quality. ($100,

    Mio Fuse: For those who prefer a wristband over a watch, this guy combines the capabilities of a sports watch, heart rate monitor and activity tracker into one. ($149,


Samantha Lefave

Samantha is a writer who is living, eating and sweating her way through NYC. You can find her running half-marathons like it's her job, Instagramming her favorite food and fitness finds or, let's be honest, eating peanut butter straight from the jar.

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