If you start to exercise, you suddenly find that your heart starts to pound. That’s your heart rate increasing, but it’s not the same thing as your blood pressure. They each affect you in a different manner, and when you have high blood pressure, it can lead to certain complications that you want to avoid. Learning what differences exist between these is a good starting point, which we will focus on in this article.

The Difference Between Blood Pressure and Heart Rate

Both blood pressure and heart rate can be used to assist in determining how well your cardiovascular system functions[1]. With this said, it’s important to note that they each provide an indication of something specific related to your circulatory system, as well as your heart.

When you measure blood pressure, it’s an indication of how much force is used to push blood through your body. The measurement essentially tells you the amount of force that is placed on the walls of your blood vessels and arteries with each pump of your heart.

There are two measurements: systolic and diabolic blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure refers to the pressure applied to blood vessel walls during a heartbeat. Diabolic instead refers to the pressure when your heart is resting between two beats.

Heart rate is a measurement of how many times your heart beats in a period of one minute.

Another important difference is the fact that when your heart rate starts to increase, you can feel it. When you have high blood pressure, however, you may not always be able to notice it, as there aren’t always early symptoms that develop. By the time you notice you have hypertension, damage may already be present on the walls of your blood vessels.

Causes Of High Blood Pressure and Low Heart Rate

There are several things that can have an impact on your blood pressure and heart rate. Some factors can cause your blood pressure to increase. There are also some situations where your heart rate may decline.

With this said, a low heart rate isn’t always a concern. In fact, athletes are often known to have a lower resting heart rate compared to people who aren’t very active. In this section, we are going to take a closer look at things that affect your blood pressure and your heart rate. Having a good understanding of these factors is important. It can help you understand what type of strategies you need to implement in your own life to keep your heart rate and blood pressure within a normal and healthy range.

Foods That Affect Blood Pressure

There are several types of food that can have an impact on your blood pressure levels. Foods that are salty and high in sodium cause an increase in your blood pressure. Additionally, processed foods are full of salt, sugar, and trans fats – these are also foods that can result in hypertension. The same goes for red meat since it contains a high amount of saturated fat.

Apart from these, alcohol is another consumable item that causes high blood pressure. Using too much alcohol can lead to long-term complications with your blood pressure as well.

Factors That Affect Heart Rate

Several things can influence your heart rate, with age and physical health being some of the most important ones to note. As you get older, your heart will gradually start to slow down over the years. If you are very athletic, then it is likely that you also have a low heart rate at rest.

With this said, there are other things that can make your heart rate slower and cause problems. If you have heart disease or a thyroid condition, then it is possible that these health problems can lower your heart rate (or sometimes increase it). Calcium channel blockers and beta-blockers are medicines that can also slow the heart rate down.

High Blood Pressure Is More Dangerous Than a High Heart Rate

High Heart Rate

When it comes to your health, it’s important to note that in most cases, high blood pressure is much more dangerous when compared to having a high heart rate. When your heart beats fast, it could be due to physical activity or perhaps a stress response. Your heart rate is only considered a serious problem if it is very high and in cases where you have other symptoms that signal something more urgent.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, often doesn’t cause early symptoms. The consistent pressure that blood places on the walls of arteries and blood vessels causes damage. This can have long-term effects on your cardiovascular system.

If you have hypertension, then your risk for heart disease is much greater. You are also at a higher risk of having a stroke or a heart attack.

What Is Your Target Heart Rate?

It’s possible to calculate your target heart rate by using a specific calculation formula. With this said, it’s important to note that you have a target resting and exercise heart rate – and you should aim to keep your heart rate within these targets.

Let’s take a closer look at a target resting heart rate chart.

Age Male Female
18 – 25 56 – 69 61 – 73
26 – 35 55 – 70 60 – 72
36 – 45 57 – 70 60 – 73
46 – 55 58 – 71 61 – 73
56 – 65 57 – 71 60 – 73
65+ 56 – 69 60 – 72

One thing to consider here is that these target ranges are for resting heart rates measured as above average, good, and excellent.

To calculate your ideal heart rate range during exercise, you’ll use this formula:

220 – age x fitness level

There are five fitness levels that are used in this calculation:

  • Elite athlete: 0.9
  • Very active: 0.8
  • Active: 0.7
  • Moderately active: 0.6
  • Sedentary: 0.5

As an example, let’s say you are a 30-year-old man who is moderately active. In this case, the calculation would be:

220 – 30 x 0.6 = 114 bpm

It is merely a guideline, but you can still use this to see if you fall in line when you participate in an exercise program. There are also more advanced calculations[2] that you can use to determine the ideal zones for different kinds of exercises.

Heart Rate And Exercise

Your heart rate is affected by many things – and when you start to exercise, it increases[3]. This is a very normal reaction. During exercise, your body needs access to more blood – in particular, your cardiovascular system must pump a larger amount of blood to your muscles. This helps to ensure muscles obtain oxygen and nutrients to perform well.

The more intense the exercise, the more blood your muscles need. Your heart rate adapts according to the intensity of your exercise session to ensure it can push enough blood through your body.

One of the best ways to measure your own heart rate while you exercise is to wear a fitness tracker. These have become very popular and give you an opportunity to keep an eye on your heart rate while you rest and during your exercise sessions. They also store data, which allows you to come back at a later time to view your performance and track progress as you make changes to your routine.

Busting Myths About Blood Pressure And Heart Rate

There are a couple of myths that have been shared about blood pressure and heart rate. It is important to recognize them for what they are – myths. In this section, we will take a closer look at some of the more common myths that are often shared and why they are not true.

Blood pressure and heart rate are always linked

Some people believe that your heart rate will always be directly linked to your blood pressure. It is true that there is a link between these two, but they are not always directly connected. One example would be during exercise. When you get on a treadmill, your heart rate starts to increase – but that doesn’t always mean your blood pressure will increase at the same rate. Sometimes when you are stressed, your blood pressure may go up without causing a rapid heart rate.

Low heart rate or low blood pressure always spells trouble

Every person is unique and has their own blood pressure and heart rate measurements. One person might have a low heart rate because they are very active, perhaps even competing professionally in athletic events. Another person may have a low heart rate due to their older age. Then there can be someone with a low pulse rate that is caused by heart disease or medication they use. As you can see, it doesn’t necessarily mean if your blood pressure levels or pulse rate is low that there is a serious medical problem behind it.

Blood pressure and heart rate have normal target numbers

When you look at guides on heart rate, blood pressure, and related topics, you’ll often see that certain suggestions are made in terms of target numbers. In fact, in this article, we also shared a chart that displays what the ideal heart rate is during exercise for men and women of certain ages. These are guidelines and they tend to be useful, but it’s important to note that a specific “normal” target number for heart rate and blood pressure does not exist. It is rather something that we need to look at in a more personalized manner. Your “normal” targets would not be the same as that of another person – always keep this in mind when comparing your figures to suggested target ranges.

Hypertension is in your family, so you cannot do anything about it

Another myth is that when there is high blood pressure in your family, you will have it too. It is true that some genetic factors are related to hypertension. Instead of looking at things like this, consider the fact that you have a family history of this problem ONE of the risk factors that you face. It is not the only risk factor. There are many things that affect blood pressure – how active you are, what you eat, how well you sleep, your stress management strategies, and more. By focusing on the things you have control over, you can actually do something about your risk of hypertension, even if it is a common condition in your family line.

Risk of hypertension

I can feel when I have high blood pressure

Sure, there are cases where high blood pressure causes a few symptoms, but in most cases, you won’t know if your blood pressure is above the ideal levels without testing it. The symptoms that you feel may rather be related to things like complications that hypertension has already led to – which could include heart disease, for example. High blood pressure itself rarely causes symptoms that are easy to notice, especially at a very early stage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Heart rate & blood pressure during exercise?

When you exercise, both blood pressure and heart rate tend to increase. Keep your heart rate between a range of 50% to 85% of what your calculated maximum heart rate is.

What is an unsafe heart rate?

A normal resting heart rate should be between 60 and 100 bpm. If you exercise, your heart rate can increase. Age, your health, and other things affect what your ideal heart rate range should be.

What disease alter heart rate?

Heart disease can cause problems with your heart rate, but so can anemia, which is a condition that refers to a deficiency in red blood cells. Anxiety, severe pain, and hyperthyroidism can also affect heart rate.

What is stroke-level blood pressure?

Stroke level blood pressure is when the reading is 180/120 mm Hg and higher. At this point, high blood pressure is an emergency, and you will need to be taken to an emergency room to help avoid a stroke.


While there are some things that can affect both your heart rate and your blood pressure at the same time, it’s important to note that these two are not the same. Understanding the differences that exist between them can help you better understand when you need to take certain actions or in which scenarios a visit to a local emergency room is necessary to avoid serious complications.