Atrial Fib: Your Pulse

Rosalie Ungar is the author of IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib. This post was first published on December 3, 2017.

Last week’s blog about finding your pulse to know whether or not you’re in atrial fib left out one important factor. Thank you readers for alerting me that many patients don’t know what the average resting pulse rate should be. Besides being in a steady rhythm, the number of beats per minute at rest can vary for adults from 60 to 100 beats per minute.

So, if you take your own pulse at the inside of your wrist or on your neck to the side of your windpipe, check the second hand on your watch or clock and count the beats for 15 seconds and multiply by 4. If you count 15 beats that’s a rate of 60 beats per minute…a good number.

I take my pulse looking at the clock for a full minute because for years mine was irregular. It’s more accurate for a full 60 seconds. If your count is 20 beats in 15 seconds, that’s 80. Read more about that in my memoir, IN A HEARTBEAT: The Ups & Downs of Life with Atrial Fib.

A lower resting heart rate of 40 to 50 beats per minute usually indicates a more efficient heart function. Often this implies cardiovascular fitness. During exercise the rate can climb to as high as 120 or more, but when exercise ceases, the resting rate should return. However, if the heart rate is constantly above 100 at rest or always below 50, you should consult your doctor.

I wear a pacemaker that controls my lowest heart rate. You and your doctor can decide on the  heart rate setting. My pacemaker is set at a heart rate of 60 beats per minute. When I exercise it goes as high as 80 or 90 and sometimes 100, but it never goes lower than 60. I cover that information in an earlier blog about pacemakers. Many factors influence heart rate and rhythm:

  • Activity level
  • Fitness level
  • Air temperature
  • Body position (standing up or lying down)
  • Emotions
  • Body size
  • Medications

It is documented that exercise is one of the best meds. Cardio workouts include elliptical, treadmill, spinning bike, rowing machine and sled. A picture of me pushing the sled is shown below. I used to do 100 pushups but since turning 80, my best is 50 with a 10 second rest at 25.


In a Heartbeat is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.
The book is also available at Barnes & Noble as a paperback and Nook book.
Digital versions are available on Kobo and iTunes.
Also available as audio book from Amazon and Audible.

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