Northwestern University logoRegular exercise is very important to lead a healthy life but often people seem to face a risk of heart-related death during exercise. It is therefore vital that people should keep a check on their peak heart rates. Scientists from the Northwestern Medicine have apparently made it possible for women to measure their peak heart rate by a stress test. They claim to have presented a more accurate estimation of the peak heart rate to be attained by a healthy woman during exercise.

The authors predicted a new formula for women which is 206 minus 88 percent of age. They explained that according to the old formula a person aged 50 would display a peak rate of 170 beats per minute irrespective of whether they were men or women. But the latest analysis supposedly suggests a maximum heart rate of 162 beats for women.

“Now we know for the first time what is normal for women, and it’s a lower peak heart rate than for men. Using the standard formula, we were more likely to tell women they had a worse prognosis than they actually did,” explained Martha Gulati, M.D., assistant professor of medicine and preventive medicine and a cardiologist at Northwestern Medicine.

While exercising many men and women often use their peak heart rate multiplied by 65 to 85 percent to determine their upper heart rate. Although the new formula is a little complicated, employing a calculator may be helpful. Gulati is aiming to further simplify this calculation by introducing an iPhone application. After scrutinizing 5,437 healthy women aged 35 and older, the investigators announced the new formula. All these women were participants in the St. James Women Take Heart Project initiated in 1992 in the Chicago area.

Gulati highlighted, “Before, many women couldn’t meet their target heart rate. Now, with the new formula, they are actually meeting their age-defined heart rate.”

The latest formula enables women to accurately understand if they are generating normal or abnormal response to exercise. The investigators cautioned that test revealing an abnormal response is a marker suggesting an elevated risk of death. They explained that women and men share a gender difference so their capacity to exercise will differ.

The study is published in the June 28 issue of the journal Circulation.