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Heart & Vascular Health | Tests and Treatments
Blood pressure cuff

Busting 5 Myths About Blood Pressure and Heart Rate

Do the two go hand in hand?

Blood pressure and heart rate go hand in hand (or arm in cuff) in most people’s minds. After all, these two “vital signs” are measured together at the doctor’s office.

But the two measure distinct factors related to your heart health. Blood pressure is the force of blood flowing against the walls of your arteries, while heart rate (or pulse) is the number of times your heart beats every minute. Below, Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Michael Faulx, MD, explains some key differences — and busts some common myths along the way.

1. Blood pressure and heart rate are always linked

False: It is true that blood pressure and heart rate often rise and fall together, Dr. Faulx says. When you face danger, for example, your blood pressure and pulse may both jump upward at the same time.

However, if your heart rate rises, that doesn’t automatically mean your blood pressure will rise — or vice versa. “When the two are disconnected, you may be looking at a specific problem,” Dr. Faulx says. “For example, if your blood pressure is consistently high but your heart rate stays in your typical range, we may need to look at treatment specifically for high blood pressure.”

2. There’s one “normal” for blood pressure and heart rate

False: There are guidelines, but what’s normal varies from person to person.

Optimal blood pressure is typically defined as 120 mm Hg systolic (the top number, which is the pressure as your heart beats) over 80 mm Hg diastolic (the bottom number, which is the pressure as your heart relaxes). For your resting heart rate, the target is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. But keep in mind, “Both heart rate and blood pressure are a customized fit,” Dr. Faulx says. “You need to work with your doctor to establish a baseline that’s normal for you.”

“Are you dragging and feeling weak? The numbers on their own don’t tell the story; it’s the numbers paired with how you are feeling and what symptoms you may have.”

3. Going “low” always indicates a problem

False: What’s healthy for one person may indicate danger for another. For example, a young, fit person may have a resting heart rate in the 50s or, in some cases, even the 40s. “It can actually be a badge, a sign of being in really good shape,” Dr. Faulx notes.

Low blood pressure can be a bit trickier, especially in older patients and those with heart disease. If you’re in danger from low blood pressure, your body will tell you. “It’s really about how you feel,” Dr. Faulx says. “Are you dragging and feeling weak? The numbers on their own don’t tell the story; it’s the numbers paired with how you are feeling and what symptoms you may have.”

4. High blood pressure or heart rate is more likely to be dangerous

True: Again, “normal” varies. But Dr. Faulx says there is enough clinical evidence to suggest that when blood pressure is even a little over your typical average over time, the risk for heart disease and stroke go up. The physical effects of high blood pressure take their toll on your blood vessels.

Elevated heart rate can be a sign of danger, too, but the cause-effect relationship is not so clear. “Studies show that people who run a faster heart rate are more likely to have cardiac problems and premature cardiac death,” Dr. Faulx says. “But we’re not sure whether that is the cause of the problem or just a sign of what’s going on.”

5. When you measure matters

True: To measure your resting heart rate and blood pressure, pick a time when you’re feeling relaxed, Dr. Faulx advises. Randomly sampling both measures throughout the day can also help you reach an average. Don’t take your readings right after exercising — unless you’re trying to establish a baseline for “active” blood pressure and heart rate.

Which measure is more important depends on your health, too. For patients with atrial fibrillation, heart rate might be more important to watch, but many other heart diseases depend more on blood pressure. To be safe, measure both.

“Almost all automated kits you buy at a drugstore are going to give you blood pressure and pulse on one readout,” Dr. Faulx says. “It’s convenient — and there’s really no reason not to stay on top of both.”

Tags: atrial fibrillation, blood pressure, heart rate, myths, pulse
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  • charm

    I had high blood pressure for years and then it was normal but my heart beats have always been high a restng rate around 95. I had an emergency appendectomy and it bottomed out.I am a little concerned. If I wake up to early it will race.

    • The_Beating_Edge_Team

      There are many reasons for high resting heart rate and you should talk to your primary care doctor. He should evaluate you for some of the causes and see if you need a cardiology evaluation. betsyRN

      • Concerned wife

        Help my husband has a high resting HR. Like 125 crawling out of bed. The dr isn’t listening and I don’t know what to do. He has anxiety but his heart shouldn’t be skipping along so high all the time….

        • The_Beating_Edge_Team

          Concerned wife – please contact our nurses at http://www.clevelandclinic.org/heartnurse. You can reach them by chat online with a nurse, webmail (secure email) or phone. betsyRN

        • Sahand Medive

          So many things may have caused that. high heart rate is not a disease its a symptom. so your path is clear. finding the disease. start with checking out the heart itself. a cardiologist can guide you to the right way. obviously your current doctor isn’t a good one. contact me if you had more question.

    • Sasha Thomas

      Did you take or were you taking HB Meds to “normalize” your Bp?

  • Dave

    Every time someone takes my blood pressure they always say it is low. Usually around 106/60’s My bpm is around 75-80. I have Crohn’s Disease and my cholesterol is always almost too low if that is possible. I guess I have things to check into.

    • Rom

      I have Crohns disease and my results are about the same as yours, my heart rate is higher sometimes though.

    • Sasha Thomas

      Blood pressure 100/60 is considered on low end of the “normal guideline.” You should be happy, as this means you are cause aka getting less harm to your blood vessels which means less inflammation and less internal inflammation means less chance of having a stroke or heart attacks caused by plaque build up from released artery plaque.

  • Sarah

    I was diagnosed with hypertension at the age of 16. At that time my fast heartbeat was also an issue. Starting then, I was put on hypertensive medication and a medication to lower my pulse. I was told my “extra” heartbeat is caused from my heart working harder and high blood pressure.
    I am 40 years old now. Still on medication to lower my blood pressure and heartbeats.
    It’s scary!!

    • The_Beating_Edge_Team

      Sarah – it is important to make sure you are having regular follow up visits with a cardiologist. It is true hypertension can cause irregular heartbeats. Let us know if we can help. betsyRN http://www.clevelandclinic.org/heartnurse

  • D.E.Wolfe

    My blood pressure and pulse rate seem to be inversely correlated. Tonight I observed 82/62 with a pulse rate of 111. A couple nights ago it was 143/100 with a pulse rate of 74. These are extremes, but nevertheless typical. Are such observations unusual, problematical, or just unimportant data points?

    • The_Beating_Edge_Team

      If your blood pressure is fluctuating from low (82 systolic) and high (143/100) – you should let your doctor know. Low blood pressure does not necessarily mean low heart rate and high blood pressure does not necessarily mean high heart rate. Sometimes when the blood vessels dilate and pressure goes down, heart rate will increase to compensate. It is difficult to know what is going on with you without knowing your medical history, what you were doing before you took your BP and other factors. These would be good points to discuss with your doctor, especially if you are having any symptoms (fatigue, dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath). As Dr Faulx mentions, take your blood pressure after resting for 5 minutes a couple times a day. Keep a record and share it with your doctor. Hope this helps. betsyRN

  • Pamela Owens Morrison

    My resting blood pressure is 171/112. Heart rate at between 141 and 131.. Consistent measures throughout day. Should I be worried?

    • The_Beating_Edge_Team

      Your heart rate and blood pressure are both high. You should contact your doctor. betsyRN

    • Sasha Thomas

      If I were you I’d go to the ER ASAP! Anything 160/100 can cause you to have a stroke and heart attack. Your resting (laying down) heart rate should not be over 100-bpm, if it is then your heart is working overtime and this means there is possible problems with your heart or your circulatory system aka blood vessels. Seek medical treatment ASAP, please!

    • Pam Ruigh

      You must be joking!!!

  • Jeanie Halsted

    Article not at all true in my case. If I take Losartin to lower BP, pulse consistently jumps from 60 to 100. If off the meds, BP goes from 120/80 to 140/98 and pulse drops from 100 back to 60. Very linear relationship! Article misses fact that heart will get flow to extremities “one way or another” and the relationship can easily be inverse.

  • M Losoya

    I am a 24 year old male. My blood pressure is usually from 130-145 systolic and 75-85 diastolic (but not usually above 80.) My bpm ranges from 45-60. I exercise frequently (weightlifting and running 8-10 miles per week) but I drink often and I have terrible eating habits.

    Could I have a heart condition of some kind that always causes my blood pressure values to have such an extreme contrast? I have been to the doctor many times over the years for various things but no one has ever mentioned that my blood pressure might be a problem, but they consistently note that it is high.

    • Holy grail

      I’m not a doctor but i have exactly the same thing :) Get checked out by a cardiologist mine said your heart is in ultra good condition.

    • The_Beating_Edge_Team

      It sounds like you are doing great with exercise but not as good with eating and drinking. A consistent blood pressure of 140 or greater can be a problem later in life – try to eat better and drink less! Also – it may be that your blood pressure is higher when you go to the doctor’s office. So – try to check your blood pressure now and then at home if you or a friend/relative has a blood pressure monitor. See http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic_Hypertension_High_Blood_Pressure/hic_Your_Blood_Pressure It will give you information on what causes blood pressure to rise and what you should do before you get your blood pressure checked. betsyRN

  • Autumn

    I was diagnosied with CHF a year and a half ago…I saw my hospital appointed cardiologist three times after the hospital…the three months that followed my stay…I have not seen him since…I take a gazillion pills throughout the day…BP meds were all prescribed by this doctor…so now all of a sudden my BP went back up…has been in the 200s for about 2 weeks now…tried to get him for the past week…today he calls and says he does not handle BP and that I should see a kidney specialist…What???
    Does a cardiologist not treat BP????

    • The_Beating_Edge_Team

      Autumn – it is true that sometimes blood pressure that is uncontrolled may need to be treated by a hypertension specialist (nephrologist or kidney specialist), however your cardiologist or primary care internist can begin your evaluation. We are happy to see you here if you would like to be evaluated – please contact our nurses – see http://www.clevelandclinic.org/heartnurse .

  • Robin and Ernie King

    My BP runs 120/60 with a pulse of 50 in the evening but during the day it runs 190/90 with a pulse of 90. I’m in fair shape but don’t do cardio work out. What could cause such drastic changes like that

    • Holy grail

      I have exactly the same thing well not that high blood pressure but with the heart rate in the evening it completely gets down in the night.

  • Duh

    My bp is regulated by medicine but lately its been 100/70 and my pulse has been running around 90-100 at night which is bugging me, i get pains in the bottoms of my feet dizzy , dizzy spells and sometimes its hard to breath. unregulated i have seen it up to 175/99 with regular pulse, so i dunno if i need a different medicine or not, taking altenolol for bp.

    • The_Beating_Edge_Team

      It sounds as though you should make an appointment with the doctor who is managing your medications – you may need a medication “tune-up” Let us know if we can help you more. betsyRN http://www.clevelandclinic.org/heartnurse

  • Dan W

    Blood pressure while resting this evening, 157/107. Pulse rate however dropped to 39. Comments and suggestions appreciated. I am a 61 year old male with a history of bradycardia

    • Mary

      You need to see about getting a pacemaker as your heart isn’t beating enough to get blood into all your vital organs. Pulse rate under 50 isn’t healthy. Your BF is also too high. Hoping you are under a doctors care, if not, make an appointment soon….

  • alvin

    I had insomia for almost 3 months,during my checkup the doktor told that i have highblood pressure,and i also observe that i have irregular heart beat ranging 85-115 at rest.did lack of sleep may be the reason of fast HR?

  • Henata Grammes Caldas

    My bp was 86/62 and my heart rate was 170. What does this means?

    • Holy grail

      that you have to seek Medical help asap!

  • johnean lilly

    I ve been checking mean lately as a nurse I work with said my pulse rate was high I had last time 127/94 with 98 pulse im 27 female I do get chest pains but always put this down to acid. I get alot of headaches cramping in my carf. When sleeping. I sometimes get.a feeling like a flutter in my heart I tend to get hot and sweat often. my grandad died of heart attack and my dad has angina

    • The_Beating_Edge_Team

      Even though you are young, with your family history and symptoms, you should be evaluated by a doctor. They can listen to your heart, perform a physical exam and obtain a risk profile. betsyRN

  • Dee

    Blood pressure is anywhere from 105/75 to 120/80, yet heart rate was up in the 120-140 range. I had just walked briskly for 30 minutes, but even after trying to relax for 5-10 mins, it was still high. I should also mention, I suffer from anxiety. Should I be concerned?

    • The_Beating_Edge_Team

      Your blood pressure is good. The answer to your heart rate is not a simple yes or no. What is your heart rate at rest when you wake in the morning? How long does it take to come back to normal after exercise? Are you having symptoms with your heart rate – shortness of breath, chest pressure? Are you fit? It may not be an issue or it may be. You should talk to your doctor if you are concerned who knows you best – your primary care or family doctor. Feel free to contact our nurses at http://www.clevelandclinic.org/heartnurse if you want to discuss this further.

    • Nan

      Have you considered having your thyroid checked? Those were the symptoms I had before the doc found I had hyperthyroidism. Be aware that if you have thyroid nodules your TSH numbers can come back normal at the time of the blood test. My problem was found with a thyroid scan. I had felt a lump in my neck also, but sometimes those can’t be felt. If you feel you aren’t getting the right answers from your doc get other opinions. I went to 3 docs before I found the answer.

  • bobalouski

    I freak out when the doc puts the cuff on my arm. When I take it myself it’s normal!

    • bobalouski

      *or the nurse

  • dee

    Please make sure that whenever you take your blood pressure you have the correct cuff size. It can make a huge difference!!

  • Elias

    I’ve got high BP 170/110, then doctor started lowering BP drugs twice a day which causes my BP low up to 100/65 consistently. Is it ok? I am 35 years, no cholesterol, no sugar everything is alright with my health.

    My parents too not having BP & sugar disease, shall i continue take BP drugs for lowering BP. Also my ECG is normal. Plz help !!

  • Healingcomes

    I am 53 yr old female. I had my thyroid removed and being treated for that plus hypo pit. All my blood test results were good except a low t3 last month. I have been gradually increasing t3 with supplemental armour( I also take synthroid).
    I take blood pressure and heart rate regularly. Both are normal for me at about 110 /70 and 80 for heart rate. But I’ve been experiencing weakness in arms with pain plus feeling faint and dizzy while standing. I also had an MRI showing mild stenosis in cervical area. My endo wondered if this is enough to cause some compression of the carotid artery? Thus being the possible cause of symptoms.
    My primary physician wants to check my heart( which had already been worked up three times at three different very good hospitals.( mayo included).
    Any suggestions?

  • Esmeralda Ramirez

    I have my blood pressure at 110 over 74 but my pulse is at 94 what should I do

  • Helen

    I’m hoping you can point me in the right direction. My blood pressure ranges between 85/55 to 95/65 with resting heart rate typically around 52. Lately I can feel every heartbeat pounding through my body – last night I couldn’t get back to sleep as I felt it throbbing in my skull to distraction. Now my head feels tight and I can feel the pulse at the base of my head. I had been having atrial fibrillation and racing heart a week or so ago before I found out my ferritin was low. I am taking oral iron supplements and the AF and racing heartbeat seem to have subsided. My eyes are bloodshot and sore – the doc told me to get reading glasses. I actually feel dizzy today. My ECG came back normal. He’s not one for ordering tests. I feel horrible and don’t know what to do. Could this all be related to ferritin? Perhaps my adrenals are stressed? Any suggestions are appreciated.