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101 Facts About Ageing #10: Maximum Heart Rate Declines With Age, Regardless of Fitness

Posted on 13 July 2021

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As Daniel Patrick Moynihan, an American sociologist, politician, and diplomat once said: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts”. And we wholeheartedly agree. A shared set of facts is the first step to building a better world with longevity for all. In that spirit, we are creating a series that covers 101 indisputable facts about ageing, health and longevity.

Maximum heart rate is the highest number of times the heart can beat per minute under maximum stress. Having a higher maximum heart rate does not necessarily mean that one is healthier or fitter. Maximum heart rate is primarily predicted by age alone, with gender and level of physical activity having relatively little effect. As age increases, maximum heart rate undergoes a steady decline. The average 20 year-old can expect to have a maximum heart rate in the ballpark of 195, while the maximum heart rate of a 70 year-old will be quite a bit lower at around 160.

Relationship between group mean maximal heart rate (HRmax) and subject age obtained from the meta-analysis. Maximal heart rate is closely predicted by 208.7-0.73*Age in men, 208.1-0.77*Age in women.

This decline in maximum heart rate limits the performance of ageing athletes, who may routinely reach their maximum heart rate during exercise. A reduced maximum heart rate may contribute to a decline in independent living by reducing and individual’s ability to exert themselves physically.

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    Age-predicted maximal heart rate revisited:

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