Some researchers say that mammal hearts are designed to beat for a particular number of times only in a lifetime. It’s like most car engines are designed to run a particular number of rounds. Classical inter-species plot between heart rate and life expectancy on log exponential scale looks like this:
So arises a question - can slowing down heart rate enhance life span?
There are many evidences that support this, and many more doing so the other way around – increasing heart rate reduces life span. Here heart rate refers to resting heart rate, meaning thereby, beats per minute when one is calm, comfortable and relaxed.
Why does it happen so?
Primary reason for heart’s fast wearing out when beating fast is its own blood supply, oxygen exchange and overall oxidative stress. In addition, increased heart rate causes more wear and tear in blood vessels, affect circadian rhythm and alter dynamics of most biochemical processes in the body. There has been lot of research happening around the world on this all the time. In 2009 Harvard reported that slowing heart rate may translate into longer life span.
And more recently, BMJ’s Open Heart journal reported that those in their 50s and having heart rate over 75 beats per minute carry double the risk of early death.
Linkage in heart rate and mortality risk is quite linear and it is ideal to maintain it below 65 beats per minute particularly during the midlife i.e. in 40s and 50s.
How to achieve this? Does deep meditation or taking lot of rest work?
Running and doing high intensity physical tasks increase heart beats so it appears taking lot of rest could be a good idea. In reality, it is just the opposite. Keep in mind here we are talking of Resting Heart Rate (RHR) and it is a measurement when you are calm, relaxed and comfortable, not when you are running or performing high intensity physical tasks.
When you do high intensity physical labor or run your heart becomes strong and it manages to supply the blood with lesser efforts, and if you are sedentary your heart becomes weak and then it requires working more to do the same job. Hence, sedentary lifestyle always increases the RHR. Most peasants and athletes have RHR under 60. It’s like love, to begin with it enhances palpitation, but on a long run it makes you stronger and calmer.
High intensity physical work is like love or romance, in short run it increases palpitation, but in long run it makes you stronger and calmer.
As far as meditation is concerned it has bi-directional effect. If it is calming you, it will reduce the RHR; however, since most meditation are sitting and sedentary, physically they are likely to weaken heart and increase RHR. For practical reasons most long sitting meditations weaken the heart, increase RHR and reduce lifespan unless coupled with high intensity physical labor. Our body is primarily designed to move, and to stay fit it needs keep moving.
What about medicines?
There are many medicines that reduce heart rate, even many blood pressure lowering medicines work in this manner – they slow down the heart to reduce the pressure. It’s like slowing down your ceiling fan to reduce air pressure or turbulence. This could be good for your heart but it’s bad for the rest of the body. If heart is beating more it’s not doing so without a purpose – there is a purpose and the purpose is this that it got to supply the blood to the whole body, and if it is weak it got to work more. It is like a strong person can jump 10 feet in one go but weaker may require jumping twice or thrice to cover the same distance. Hence it could be a good idea to take medicine for a short period to protect heart from being damaged, in long run medicines are bad.
What is the ideal way to keep resting heart rate under 65?
Ideal way to keep RHR under 65 is by paying attention to cardiac cleansing and strengthening. Autophagic fasts and sun bathing helps cleanse heart and doing high intensity physical work makes it strong. Moreover, it cleanses and strengthens not only the heart, but the whole body, and eventually you have substantially enhanced health span and life expectancy.