ONE of the most important organs in the body is the heart. It pumps blood to every cell, tissue and other organs, including its own muscles. From the moment it begins to beat in the foetus while still in womb, it continues to do so life, even if the person lives as long as Methuselah.
In a normal situation the heart beats rhythmically at a regular pace, except when the pace increases either of quickened bodily activity or fright as sometimes happens when a sleeping person experiences a scary, where he appears to be chased. When the person suddenly breaks out of the dream and becomes conscious, he can feel the heart beating fast. The rhythmic beating of the heart is called heart rate, and is defined as “the speed of the heartbeat measured by the number of contractions of the heart per minute (bpm),” says Dr. Lambo Igwe, a general practitioner and medical director of Edozie Clinic, Owerri, Imo State.
As Webmd.com explains, the heart rate can vary according to the body’s physical needs, including the need to absorb oxygen and excrete carbon dioxide. It is usually equal or close to the pulse measured at any peripheral point of the arterial vascular network, for instance in the forearm or the neck. Activities that can provoke change include physical exercise, sleep, anxiety, stress, illness, and ingestion of drugs.
The heart rate may be normal or abnormal depending on specific conditions. It is widely accepted that the normal resting adult human heart rate ranges from 60–100 BPM (beats per minute). But when the heart beats at a sustained fast rate, the person is said to be having tachycardia, which simply means fast heart rate, defined as above 100 bpm at rest. On the other hand, a slow heart rate is referred to as bradycardia, which is a condition where the resting heart rate is below 60 bpm. Several studies and the consensus of several experts indicate that the normal resting adult heart rate is probably closer to a range between 50 and 90 BPM. During sleep a slow heartbeat with rates around 40–50 BPM is common and is considered normal.