Since the radio show segment and Valentines Day landed on the same day this month it seemed fitting to focus the blog on your all things with HEART!

Your heart on Valentine’s Day day often gets credit for the how much you feel the love but I’m going to cover some of the ways in which your heart can make you feel!

The two sides of the heart can actually be applied in more than two ways. The are two sides to the physical heart and heartache usually makes you think of a heart broken in two. Another way to define the two: a biology side and psychology side.

The biology side of me wants to share information on heart rate, stroke volume, blood pressure, heart rate variability, and breathing (specifically nasal breathing). Making informed decisions on activities that affect these (“Your cardiovascular system and more”) from a technical perspective will decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease, which is preventable.

The psychological side of me appreciates that the heart is one connected organ and some of the “softer” aspects of our health might benefit from a closer look at stress, sleep, relationships, and mindset.

If #selfcareishealthcare then let’s look at both sides of your heart.

Knowledge is power so use it to help you feel better every day.

When thinking of your heart as a muscle from the biology side we have several indicators or measures of your health.

Your blood pressure, heart rate (pulse), and heart rate variability are all separate measurements and indicators of your health.

It’s important to understand the difference between blood pressure and heart rate because although they can affect one another they are not directly related to each other. While your blood pressure is the force of your blood moving through your blood vessels, your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute. Heart rate variability is the time in-between each heart beat. It is reflective of the internal stress you are experiencing and although somewhat new to the fitness realm it has been well researched as an effective way to measure the physiological efficiency of the body.


Blood Pressure measured in millimetres (mm) of Mercury and is the result of two forces or pressure readings. One test will give you two numbers such as 120/80 which is the Systolic pressure (upper number) reading over the Diastolic pressure (lower number) reading.

Systolic blood pressure indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when the heart beats and pumps blood out of the heart and into the arteries which are part of your circulatory system.

Diastolic blood pressure indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is resting between beats and refilling with blood for the next beat.

Heart and Stroke  defines varying blood pressure categories: low risk, medium risk, high risk. See your doctor or healthcare provider to get a proper blood pressure measurement.

  • Low risk: 120 / 80
  • Medium risk: 121-139 / 80 – 89
  • High risk: 140+ / 90


Heart Rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute.  Your heart is a muscle, and the stronger and more efficient it is, the more easily it pumps blood throughout your circulatory system. A lower heart rate usually indicates a healthy and strong heart muscle.

You can measure your own heart rate the old fashioned way by taking your pulse or use one of the many devices available on the market.

  • Take your pulse on the inside of your wrist, on the thumb side.
  • Use the tips of your first two fingers to press lightly over the blood vessels on your wrist.
  • Count for a full minute to get the most accurate reading.
  • Take in the morning before rising will give you the best indication of what your resting heart rate is. This can be used to calculate specific ranges for heart rate intensity training that are more accurate than the standard of 220 minus your age to obtain your heart rate maximum.

An average pulse is between 50 and 80 beats per minute and many factors can affect your average.

A faster than average pulse can be related to age and issues such as infection, dehydration, stress, anxiety, thyroid dysfunction and heart conditions to name a few. Some medications, especially beta blockers and digoxin, can slow your pulse. A lower heart rate is notes in folks who exercise. The heart muscle is strong and efficient and therefore pumps less often to achieve the demands put on it.

Respiratory Rate

Respiratory Rate is the number if times you inhale and exhale per minute. Whether you inhale and exhale through your mouth or nose is not a factor when counting the respiratory rate. Your respiratory rate generally increases as you body demands more oxygen with exercise or the imposed demand. Your rate may increase with fever, illness, and with other medical conditions. A normal value is between 12 and 16 per minute.

Heart rate and exercise

Measuring your heart rate before, during and after exercise will give you an idea of your heart health. The greater the intensity of the exercise, the more your heart rate will increase. When you stop exercising, your heart rate does not immediately return to your normal (resting) heart rate. The sooner it does return to a normal rate has recently been found as a positive factor in heart health management.

A rising heart rate does not cause your blood pressure to increase at the same rate. Even though your heart is beating more times a minute, healthy blood vessels dilate (get larger) to allow more blood to flow through your body and deliver more blood to your muscles.  You want your heart rate to increase with exercise but your blood pressure to respond by only increasing or decreasing a modest amount.

When thinking of your heart as a muscle from the psychology side we have several indicators or measures of your health:

  • Have you ever felt your heart rate rise when you feel anxious and stressed?
  • How are you managing your stress, sleep, relationships, and mindset?
  • Do you know about your autonomic nervous system?

It’s a good place to point out here that the heart rate variability (HRV) is a direct measure of many things on the psychology side that provides a number reflective of where your nervous system is on that given day. I find it fascinating when my HRV reading is telling me something that my mind doesn’t necessarily want to hear!

The concept of HRV is not new but the technology behind it is.  There is a lot of research on heart rate variability spanning over the last 40 years including 20,000 studies published on the findings. Until recently, this technology was only available to the medical and research professionals. Now, we can take it out of the hospital and into the fitness training environment thanks to Bluetooth heart rate straps and phone apps (some of which are free).

Heart rate variability is a simple tool that can help to figure out what’s going on within the autonomic nervous system. The data that you can collect can tell you a lot about things going on in the body that you can’t necessarily feel. It’s the time between heart beats that is recorded over time that determines the variability.

The autonomic nervous system is fundamental to what’s going on inside the body and the heart rate variability or time between each heart beat is reflected in this number.

There are two branches of the autonomic nervous system: the sympathetic system and the para-sympathetic system. The sympathetic system is your gas pedal or flight or fight response. It has a greater influence on the body when awake. The para-sympathetic system is your brake pedal or your rest and digest system. It has a greater influence during rest and influences your ability to recover. The balance between these two systems is heart rate variability.  Read more on heart rate variability from my past blog .

Nasal Breathing 101: What is nasal breathing and can it affect my heart?

I predicted back in 2017 that nasal breathing was going to get a lot of traction when I wrote this blog “Noses are for Breathing: Mouths are for Eating. I continue to be a big fan and I regularly program nasal breathing time for my clients and practice it myself. Many people find this very challenging.

Benefits of breathing through the nose:

  • Nose breathing gets 5-15% more oxygen uptake than mouth breathing
  • Nasal breathing warms and humidifies incoming air.
  • Nasal breathing removes a significant number of bacteria and germs from the air you breathe in.
  • The nose is a reservoir for nitric oxide. This gas is released from the paranasal sinuses and is essential for good health. It sterilizes the incoming air, opens airways (natural bronchodilator) and enhances oxygen uptake in the blood among other things.
  • Nasal breathing during exercise allows you to keep your work intensity great enough to produce an aerobic training effect based on heart rate and VO2 max.

From the Heart and Stroke website here is the list of healthy lifestyle behaviours to give yourself this Valentine’s Day.

?  Eat Well

?  Get Moving

?  Maintain a Healthy Weight

?  Manage Stress

?  Stop Smoking

Heart Disease is preventable.

Reach out to us at it’s time! Fitness Results with your questions!      

Inform Instruct Inspire @ www.itstimefitnessresults.com  

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Written by: Sheila Hamilton Copyright February 2019



Beyond Training: Ben Greenfield Copyright 2014 p.46, 47

The Oxygen Advantage: Patrick McKeown Copyright 2015 p. 34 (-2)

The role of heart rate variability in sports physiology. Dong JG1.


CNS Tap Test  Version 1.4.0 (-1) From the App Store Information page

My past blog on Heart Rate Variability and the heart lub dub.

My past blog on Nasal Breathing: Noses are for breathing.








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