Harvard Heart Letter

New heart rate estimate for women

Researchers refine the calculation of peak heart rate.

The heart has an amazing range of speeds, from a slow, steady rhythm during sleep to a fleeter beat during strenuous physical activity. Its upper limit, known as the maximum or peak heart rate, is a helpful number. Peak heart rate is used to help diagnose heart disease as well as to guide cardiac rehabilitation and daily exercise. It also carries some information about the heart's health and about longevity.

The most accurate way to determine peak heart rate is by taking an exercise stress test. Under a health care professional's watchful eye, you exercise as hard as you can while wired to a heart monitor. The highest number of beats per minute you attain is your maximum heart rate.

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