If you have a high heart rate, it means your heart beats or contracts more times per minute than that of the average person your age. For most adults, a resting heart rate of 60 to 80 beats per minute is considered average. A high resting heart rate would be considered anything around 100 or higher, depending on age. If you measure your own heart rate at rest and it consistently measures 100 beats per minute or higher, you should consult a doctor, as it indicates a poor fitness level and possibly heart disease.
Changes in Heart Rate
Your heart rate should change significantly from the resting rate to the rate during exercise. This change indicates that your heart responds appropriately the additional demands of physical activity on the body. However, if there is little difference between the two, it's a clear sign your heart is not beating efficiently.
Studies show that a high resting heart rate raises your risk of heart attack and heart disease, with one study in the February 2009 British Medical Journal making an especially strong link between high heart rate and heart disease risk in women. A high heart rate that lasts for a long time can lead to cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the heart muscle that can result in insufficient pumping of blood to the brain and rest of the body.
It's important to remember that your heart rate and blood pressure change throughout the day in response to activity, hormones, mood, music, sleep and other factors. So a heart rate measured after you've been listening to hard rock music in heavy traffic is likely to be higher than one taken while you've been resting in hammock for an hour.
Lowering Your Heart Rate
A high heart rate is usually a sign of poor cardiovascular fitness, something that can be improved through regular aerobic exercise, smoking cessation, weight loss (if necessary) and a health diet. Some medications, such as beta blockers, can help lower your heart rate, though they should be taken in addition to heart-healthy lifestyle improvements.
Other Causes of a High Heart Rate
Inactivity and obesity aren't the only possible reasons for a high heart rate. If you suffer from an arrythmia or abnormal heart rhythm, you may experience episodes where your heart rate accelerates. There are medications and interventions that can address rhythm problems such as atrial fibrillation and super ventricular tachycardia. The bottom line, however, is that whatever is causing your high heart rate should be treated, thus possibly reversing any damage done by a sustained elevated heart rate.