Heart rate and blood pressure: Understanding the relationship

Heart rate:

The number of heartbeats per minute is referred to as the heart rate or pulse of an individual. The measurement of pulse provides important information about the health and fitness level of the person. An abnormal heart rate of an individual indicates health problems. A fast pulse also sometimes indicates dehydration or an infection. In emergency situations, pulse acts as an indicator for determining whether the heart is pumping or not. Continually high resting heart rates (i.e., tachycardia) indicates a problem. The same is the case with resting heart rates below the normal values (i.e., bradycardia)1. A normal resting heart rate ranges from 60 to 100 beats/minute. Any problem with a person’s heart rate may be an arrhythmia.

Blood pressure:

The proper blood flow to the tissues and organs of the body is ensured by normal blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force exerted by the blood on the walls of the arteries. Blood pressure is indicated with two numbers (i.e., systolic and diastolic pressures), normally the systolic number comes before the diastolic one. Normal values of systolic pressure are less than 120 and for diastolic, less than 802.

Difference between blood pressure and heart rate:

Blood pressure and heart rate do not necessarily sync all time. Amazingly, blood pressure and heart rate do not always rise and fall in sync. Even if they both rise they won’t rise at the same rate. While exercising, the heart rate increases, however, the blood pressure increases to a lesser extent or in some cases remains the same. This is because the blood vessels dilate (increase in size) to allow easier and faster flow of the blood. The blood flow often does not affect the blood pressure to the same extent as it does to heart rate. While the heart rate is the number of heartbeats per minute, blood pressure is the force of blood moving through blood vessels. Both are two different indicators of health that are measured differently. It is possible for your heart to double it’s beating rate safely, while blood pressure may respond by elevating only a modest amount.

It becomes evident when a person checks his/her pulse before, during, and after exercise that the pulse increases. The greater is the intensity of the exercise the more will the heart rate increase. After a person stops exercising, the heart rate does not return immediately to normal. The sooner a person’s heart rate returns to normal the more fit he/she is.

High heart rate and low blood pressure:

Sometimes high heart rate and low blood pressure may occur temporarily. Blood pools in the veins of our gut and legs. Less blood travels to the muscles of the heart, so the heart does not have much to pump out. As a result the nervous system automatically triggers an increase in the heart rate. Meanwhile, the blood pressure becomes low due to less force exerted by the blood in the veins. This phenomenon is momentary. When heart rate stays consistently high and blood pressure is low, This situation is an indicator of some problem going on.

The improper working of the heart’s electrical circuits (SA node and AV node) also results in a high heart rate and low blood pressure. Fluttering in the chest is an indicator that there is a short-circuit in the heart’s natural electrical wiring called arrhythmia. Atrial fibrillation is one of the most common arrhythmias in the upper chambers of the heart. When the rhythm of the heart is abnormal and fast (over 100 but close to 16 beats per minute), the heart can not fill with blood adequately. This turbulent electrical signaling disturbs the syncing of heart muscles between the top and bottom chambers. Thus the efficiency of the heart decreases and less blood is pumped throughout the body, which causes low blood pressure[3][4]. This disorder is known as Atrial Fibrillation and an abnormally fast heart rate is referred to as tachycardia.

Atrial fibrillation:

Atrial fibrillation (AFib or AF), is the most common type of heart arrhythmia that is treated. Arrhythmia is caused when the heart is beating too fast, too slowly, or in an irregular way. In atrial fibrillation, the heart’s upper chambers beat in an irregular way causing an improper flow of blood from atria to ventricles. It is either a permanent condition or happens in short episodes. It’s symptoms appear in some while others don’t have them. The symptoms include irregular heartbeat, heart palpitations, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, etc.,5


Blood pressure and heart rate don’t always rise and fall in sync. Even if they both rise they won’t rise at the same rate. Sometimes high heart rate and low blood pressure occur temporarily. As less blood returns to the heart from the body so the nervous system triggers the heart to beat faster. This is a momentary phenomenon. However, sometimes the blood pressure is low while the heart beats faster due to turbulent electrical signaling in the heart due to atrial fibrillation.


  1. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003399.htm
  2. https://medlineplus.gov/vitalsigns.html
  3. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-it-means-if-you-have-low-blood-pressure-but-a-high-heart-rate/
  4. https://www.medicinenet.com/low_blood_pressure/article.htm
  5. https://www.cdc.gov/heart-disease/about/atrial-fibrillation.html
This page was last reviewed and updated by on Sep 2, 2020.