5 common causes of high heart rate — and whether you should be concerned

Heart rates rise when we exercise, but a high resting heart rate could be cause for concern

If you have a smart watch or a fitness watch, you’re probably used to tracking your heart rate, especially while working out. Monitoring that rate is a great way to reach fitness milestones and measure your cardiovascular health.

But what if your heart rate is high when you’re not exercising? What’s normal and when should you be concerned?

According to the American Heart Association, a normal rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute (BPM). The maximum healthy heart rate can be calculated by subtracting your age from 220.

So, if you’re 50 years-old, you’re maximum rate should be no more than 170 beats per minute. And your target rate should be 50-70%. of the maximum — 85-145 BPM in this example.

If you experience a high heart rate while you’re not exerting yourself — while cooking, relaxing or even sleeping — the cause is likely one of these five reasons:

  • Caffeine: Too much caffeine can cause jitters, as well as elevate your heart rate throughout the day and even into the night.
  • Blood pressure: High and low blood pressure can both increase heart rate, as can common blood pressure medications.
  • Electrolyte imbalance: This can occur as a result of low sodium, calcium, magnesium or potassium levels.
  • Medications: Decongestants, medications for anxiety and depression, and thyroid treatments can all cause raised heart rates.
  • Anemia: This condition — when the body doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues — often causes elevated heart rates.

Smoking and drinking too much alcohol can also have effects on your heart rate. And if you take multiple medications, it’s important to discuss each one with your doctor to uncover any potential risks from combing medications.

“When you feel your heart pounding in your chest unexpectedly, don’t jump to conclusions that there’s something wrong with your heart, but if the problem continues without an explainable and simple cause, see a doctor to discuss your concerns,” interventional cardiologist, Ali Moosvi, M.D. told Hackensack Meridian Health.