The heart is the most essential organ in the human body and is made up of tiny cells. It generates a sequence of electrical activity with every single heartbeat.
Electrical signal travel through the conducting cells and stimulate the heart’s chambers – the upper (atria) and lower (ventricles) – to contract. As the electric charges are rapidly transmitted by a large number of cells, the entire heart contracts in a coordinated motion, thereby creating a heartbeat.
So this is what a heart rate monitor can detect: the electrical activity of the heart.
How do heart rate monitors work?
The sensor measures the heart rate by shining microscopic light on the blood vessels. It can be done by making contact with any part of the skin such as the chest, wrist or ear. It then analyzes the amount of reflection since less light means more blood is pumping through the veins.
Heart rates during exercise
The heart is a muscular organ that needs exercise to achieve optimal performance and good health. To know if the heart is in better shape, one can track heart rate changes over time.
Heart rate monitors provide immediate feedback on the intensity of a physical activity so that you can make adjustments in your exercise regimen to reap the greatest benefits.
The resting heart rate of most people ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute. The maximum heart beats per minute, on the other hand, can be determined by subtracting one’s age from 220 according to the American Heart Association.
During a workout, the heart rate increases which is crucial to ensure that the aerobic zone can be achieved. This is the phase where an activity is most effective and calorie burning is maximized. For most people this is 50 to 85 percent of the maximum heart rate.
Being below the safe zone means that the workout is not intense enough while going beyond it implies that the exercise is too strenuous and could lead to health problems.
During the first few weeks of exercising, the lower range of the target zone should be aimed for. After that you can gradually build up to the higher range.
Arrhythmia refers to irregular electrical impulses that cause the heart to beat too quickly, too slowly, or erratically. This abnormal heart rhythm is one of the things a heart rate monitor can detect.
Improper beating of the heart impedes the flow of blood in the body which later on could lead to the shutting down of essential body organs such as lungs, brain and liver.
To determine if this is a cause for concern, physicians use different types of heart rate monitor to identify if further treatments or medications will be needed. Continuous monitoring is important so as to ensure that the person stays fit without going beyond the safe heart rate limit.
One device is called the Holter monitor where electrodes are attached to the chest and are linked to a small device that can be worn in a shoulder bag or be strapped around the waist. It is usually worn for 24 hours or longer. Data from the device should be supported by information from a diary of all the activities, meals and symptoms that have been taken.
If symptoms only occur sporadically, an event monitor can be used. When you are feeling dizzy, groggy or experiencing chest pains or palpitations, the device worn can be activated to record the heart’s electrical impulses.
Another device similar to an event monitor is transtelephonic monitor. This basically functions in the same way as the event monitor as it reads the heart’s activity level when symptoms occur. The most significant difference between the two is that the latter can directly transmit the recorded data over the phone line.
There is also another heart rate monitor that is only used in hospitals known as the electrocardiogram or ECG. It shows the heart’s electrical activity as line tracings on a computer monitor which can also be printed out.