Harvard Men's Health Watch

On call: Beta blockers, heart rate, and exercise

On call

Beta blockers, heart rate, and exercise

Q. Recommendations about maximum heart rate don't seem to apply to me, since I take Tenormin for high blood pressure. How can I figure out my maximum rate? I'm 48 years old, and I don't take any other drugs or have any other problems.

A. Unfortunately, since you take a beta blocker, you cannot determine your maximum heart rate without a stress test. There are many different beta blockers, and they vary considerably in their tendency to slow the pulse. In addition, some people slow down on small doses, while others retain a fairly normal heart rate on large doses.

Since you are young and healthy, you don't need a stress test unless your doctor thinks you are at risk for heart disease. You can train effectively and safely without even monitoring your heart rate by simply listening to your body. Exercise hard enough to feel the exertion but not enough to produce breathlessness. And if you should experience chest discomfort, unusual nausea or lightheadedness, excessive sweating, or undue shortness of breath, stop exercising and contact your doctor.

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