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10 Factors That Affect Your Pulse & Heart Rate

By Emily Lockhart

There are many interior and exterior factors that can cause your heart rate to fluctuate. While emotional or physical exertion will speed up the pulse; certain types of illness or disease can cause it to slow down dramatically. Most of the time, you probably don’t even realize that the following ten factors influence your heart rate…

1. Illness

When the body’s immune system becomes compromised—for example, with fever, injury, anemia, or infection—changes in heart rate can occur. Particularly if septic shock sets in, the heart rate will naturally quicken to meet oxygen demands.

2. Emotional Stress

I’m sure when the stress gets heavy; you’ve noticed that your body naturally responds with a quickening pulse. The same goes for fear, another type of anxiety, which prompts the flight response and releases hormones that make the heart pump faster.

3. Exercise

Physical stress, like emotional stress, causes an increased heart rate. And exercise, or any type of physical exertion, is the healthy response as the body and muscles demand increased oxygen levels.

4. Breathing

During normal respiration the heart rate tends to slow faintly during inspiration (as you take breath in).

5. Medications

All types of over the counter, prescription, herbal supplements, and illegal drugs will have an impact on your heart rate.  For instance, ephedrine or cocaine will increase it; while beta blockers and Valerian calm and slow it down.

6. Body Temperature

A sudden change in temperature can also affect make the heart rate quicken as blood immediately rushes to your skin’s surface in order to cool or warm you up.

7. Glycogen Levels

If the glycogen stores in your body diminish, you will suffer fatigue. However, to properly fuel muscles, your heart rate will naturally increase to boost your energy levels.

8. Cardiovascular Disease

Heart disease occurs due to plaque building up in the arteries, which leads to arrhythmias followed by heart attack or heart failure. This arrhythmia (or irregular heart beat) will cause muscle damage, which will result in a decreasing or quickening pulse.

9. Dehydration

When the body becomes dehydrated (following exercise or lack of fluids over an extended period) the blood thickens and waste clogs the bloodstream. Your heart will naturally work harder to flush out waste and maintain normal cardiac output.

10. Pressure

Vagal stimulation (or pressure on the body’s special sensors) occur during labor, a bowel movement, or if we lift a heavy object. The increased pressure causes the blood pressure to change and the heart often slows in response.


Emily Lockhart


Emily Lockhart is a certified yoga instructor and personal trainer. She believes that being healthy is a lifestyle choice, not a punishment or temporary fix to attain a desired fitness or body image goal. Anna helps her clients take responsibility for their own health and wellness through her classes and articles on ActiveBeat.

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