Women and Heart Rate
What is the normal heart rate for a woman?
The average heart rate for adult women is 78 to 82 beats per minute, though the “normal” range is between 60 to 100 beats per minute. Multiple factors such as hormones, exercise and lifestyle choices can affect your heart rate.
Typically, women or people assigned female at birth have a slightly higher heart rate than men or people assigned male at birth. The average adult man has a heart rate between 70 to 72 beats per minute.
Why does heart rate vary between men and women?
Around puberty, men’s hearts tend to grow about 15% to 30% larger than women’s hearts. Generally, this increase in heart size matches an increase in body size.
Each time your heart beats, the contractions pump blood throughout your heart and body. Women’s hearts must beat faster to pump the same amount of blood because their hearts are usually slightly smaller than men’s.
What is a dangerous heart rate for women?
A heart rate consistently above 100 beats per minute when you’re not exercising may indicate a dangerous health condition. You should see your healthcare provider right away if your heartbeat is this fast, especially if you also have symptoms such as dizziness or lightheadedness.
Also, a heart rate of fewer than 60 beats per minute could be problematic, especially if you have symptoms such as lightheadedness, dizziness or significant fatigue. But it’s normal for athletes and more active people to have a lower heart rate in the 40s to 50s.
How do hormones affect heart rate?
Before menopause, people assigned female at birth tend to have better heart function than people assigned male at birth who are the same age. After menopause, there’s not as much of a difference. Researchers think this could point to a connection between estrogen and heart health.
How do perimenopause and menopause affect heart rate in women?
Before going through perimenopause and menopause, women tend to have better outcomes than men of the same age with diseases such as:
- Aortic stenosis, narrowing in the aortic valve.
- Congestive heart failure.
- High blood pressure (hypertension).
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Women in postmenopause and men of the same age tend to have similar outcomes with these diseases.
Does hormone replacement therapy (HRT) improve heart health?
Researchers haven’t found hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to be an effective treatment for improving heart function in postmenopausal individuals. It also doesn’t appear to reduce the risk of cardiovascular emergencies. However, it may help control heart palpitations and other symptoms associated with menopause, such as hot flashes or night sweats.
How does your period affect your heart rate?
Your hormones fluctuate throughout your menstrual cycle. Generally, your heart rate increases slightly during ovulation and the week afterward (luteal phase). It decreases slightly during your period and the week afterward (follicular phase).
How does pregnancy affect heart rate?
Pregnant people have a higher average heart rate compared with people who aren’t pregnant. A pregnant person’s heart works harder to pump blood to their uterus. The amount of blood their heart pumps increases by 30% to 50%. The average heart rate during pregnancy rises to around 90 beats per minute. Pregnancy also makes your heart rate increase more than usual during exercise.
Minor heart arrhythmias are common during pregnancy. For example, about 1 in 2 pregnant people experience premature atrial contractions. These arrhythmias don’t cause complications and go away without treatment most of the time. More serious arrhythmias, such as diastolic heart murmurs, may require treatment.
What types of heart rhythm conditions are more likely to affect women?
Some irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias) and conditions affecting heart rate are more common in people assigned female at birth, including:
- Atrial tachycardia: An irregularly fast heart rhythm affecting the upper heart chambers (atria).
- Atrioventricular nodal reentry tachycardia (AVNRT): Repeat episodes of a very fast heartbeat.
- Long Q-T syndrome (LQTS): A disorder in which your heart takes longer than usual to send an electrical signal through your lower heart chambers (ventricles) and recharge.
- Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS): A condition that causes lightheadedness and a rapid heartbeat when you stand up from a reclined position.
- Pulseless electrical activity (PEA) arrest: A type of cardiac arrest that occurs when you have a normal electrical signal, but your heart doesn’t beat so you have no pulse.
- Right ventricular outflow tract (RVOT) ventricular arrhythmias (VAs): A heart rhythm disorder in which the ventricles twitch instead of pump.
- Sick sinus syndrome: A heart rhythm disorder occurring when the sinoatrial (SA) node, which sends the electrical signal to start each heartbeat, doesn’t work properly.
What types of arrhythmias and heart conditions are less likely to affect women?
People assigned female at birth are less likely to experience some types of arrhythmias and conditions affecting their heart rate, including:
- Atrial fibrillation (Afib): An irregular heart rhythm beginning in the atria.
- Fascicular ventricular tachycardia (FVT): A type of too-fast heartbeat involving the fascicles, the bundles of fibers that carry your heart’s electrical signals.
- Sudden cardiac death: A medical emergency that occurs when you experience a sudden loss of heart function.
- Ventricular fibrillation: An irregular heart rhythm affecting your ventricles.
- Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome: A condition that occurs when you have an extra, irregular pathway along your heart’s conduction system. This may cause your heart to beat unusually fast.
How does atrial fibrillation affect men and women differently?
Atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heartbeat, affects people assigned male at birth more frequently than people assigned female at birth. But people assigned female at birth often experience different symptoms of atrial fibrillation, including:
They’re also more likely to have other conditions along with atrial fibrillation, such as:
- Heart failure with typical ejection fraction.
- High blood pressure (hypertension).
- Valve disease.
How are heart arrhythmias diagnosed?
You may have an appointment with an electrophysiologist to diagnose a heart rhythm disorder. Electrophysiologists are cardiologists who specialize in heart arrhythmias.
Your healthcare provider may use several tests or tools to diagnose a heart rhythm disorder, including an:
- Ambulatory monitor: These wearable devices record your heart rate over several days or weeks. They may help detect irregular heart rhythms that occur unpredictably.
- Exercise stress test: This test measures how your heart responds to increased activity. You typically walk on a treadmill or pedal on an exercise bike while connected to a machine that records your heart’s electrical activity.
- Electrocardiogram (EKG): Your provider may recommend an EKG to record your heart’s electrical activity. They attach small, adhesive patches (electrodes) to your chest. The EKG machine makes a graph of your heart’s electrical signals.
- Electrophysiology (EP) study: You may need an EP study if your provider wants more information after an EKG or stress test. The study uses small, hollow tubes (catheters) inserted through a blood vessel in your groin. Providers use the catheters to evaluate your heart’s activity.
- Tilt table test: This tool shows how different body positions affect your heart rate, blood pressure and heart rhythm. You lie on a motorized table (tilt table), and your provider connects you to an EKG machine. The table moves into several positions while the EKG records your heart’s electrical activity.
How are heart rhythm disorders treated?
Generally, treatment for a heart rhythm disorder may include:
- Medications: Your provider may prescribe medicines that regulate your heart rhythm or reduce your risk of blood clots and stroke. Women often have longer Q-T intervals than men, so some medicines that lengthen the Q-T interval aren’t always appropriate. These medicines include sotalol (Betapace®, Sotylize®, Sorine®), dofetilide (Tikosyn®) and amiodarone (Pacerone®, Nexterone®).
- Lifestyle changes: Some arrhythmias may lessen with lifestyle changes, such as limiting caffeine or alcohol. Quitting smoking may also help with arrhythmia management.
- Electrical cardioversion: Your provider sends an electrical shock to your chest wall while you're asleep. This restores a typical heart rhythm. It may benefit patients who don’t experience a regular heartbeat with medication alone. Cardioversion is also a lifesaving procedure for patients with ventricular arrhythmias that could lead to sudden cardiac arrest.
- Catheter ablation: Your provider guides a catheter to your heart, then sends hot or cold energy through the catheter. This creates small scars in heart tissue where the arrhythmia occurs, blocking irregular electrical impulses.
- Electrical devices: You may benefit from a small device implanted beneath your skin that detects or treats irregular heart rhythms. Some people have pacemakers, which send small electrical impulses that regulate heart rate. Others benefit from implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs), which detect irregular heart rhythms and send energy to the heart to restore a regular heartbeat.
- Surgery: If no other treatments successfully control your heart rate, your provider may recommend surgery. One of the most common options is the maze procedure. With the maze procedure, a cardiac (heart surgeon) creates a pattern (maze) of cuts in your heart tissue to block irregular electrical signals.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If you’re relaxing after work and suddenly feel your heart racing, you might worry something is wrong. Or maybe you’ve noticed that a male friend always seems to have a lower resting heart rate than you.
It’s normal for a woman or a person assigned female at birth to have a higher heart rate, and it seems hormones play a role. But if your heart rate is consistently above 100 beats per minute while you’re resting, you should call your healthcare provider. Also, tell your provider if your heart rate is often below 60 beats per minute, especially if you’re not extremely active in sports or exercise.
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