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Sunday, July 11, 2010

New and improved peak heart rate calculator for women

Remember that formula for calculating your peak heart rate? 220 minus your age? That formula has been in use for almost four decades by doctors to determine fitness levels and by athletes to get a proper workout. Well, according to new research by Martha Gulati of Northwestern University and colleagues from Northwestern, Emory University, University of Chicago, New York University and Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, that formula only applies to men.

The researchers looked at data from over 5000 healthy women who had participated in the Chicago based ‘St. James Women Take Heart Project’ back in 1992. The subjects, all over 34 year-old, had undergone extensive stress testing. The scientists then compared mortality rates over the next 18 years with the heart rate tests.

They discovered that the women’s peak heart required an entirely different formula, namely, 206 minus 88% of age. For people between age 30 and 75, this translates to 5 to 10 fewer heart beats per minute for women than for men. By using the old formula, a doctor might have encouraged women to exercise well past their true peak heart rates.

Unlike the men’s formula, the women’s formula is not something everyone can calculate in their heads. Luckily, the calculation only has to be done once each year, if you can remember your result. Good news for those who can’t: Gelati says she’s working on an iPhone app. to do the calculation for you.