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Heart Failure and Your Heart Rate

What Is Your Pulse?

Your pulse is your heart rate, or the number of times your heart beats in one minute. Heart rates vary from person to person. Your pulse is lower when you are at rest and increases when you exercise (because more oxygen-rich blood is needed by the body when you exercise).

Knowing how to take your pulse can help you evaluate your exercise program. If you are taking heart medications, recording your pulse on a daily basis and reporting the results to your doctor can help your provider determine if the drugs are working properly.

How Do I Take My Pulse?

1. Place the tips of your index (second finger) and third finger on the palm side of your other wrist, below the base of the thumb. Or, place the tips of your index and second finger on your lower neck, on either side of your windpipe.

2. Press lightly with your fingers until you feel the blood pulsing beneath your fingers. You may need to move your fingers around slightly up or down until you feel the pulsing.

3. Look at a watch or clock with a second hand.

4. Count the beats you feel for 10 seconds. Multiply this number by six to get your heart rate (pulse) per minute.

Check your pulse: ______________ x 6 = __________

(beats in 10 seconds) (your pulse)

What Is a Normal Pulse?

A normal resting heart rate is generally considered to be 60-100 beats per minute. Normal resting heart rates vary among individuals. Children tend to have higher resting heart rates than adults.

What Is Maximum Heart Rate?

The maximum heart rate is the highest your pulse rate can get. To calculate your predicted maximum heart rate, use this formula:

220 - Your Age = Predicted Maximum Heart Rate

Example: a 40-year-old's predicted maximum heart rate is 180.

Your actual maximum heart rate can be determined by a graded exercise test. Please note that some medications and medical conditions may affect your maximum heart rate. If you are taking drugs or have a medical condition (such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes), always ask your doctor if your maximum heart rate (and target heart rate) should be adjusted.

What Is Target Heart Rate?

You gain the most benefits and lessen the risks when you exercise in your ''target heart rate zone.'' Usually this is when your exercise heart rate (pulse) is 60%-80% of your maximum heart rate. In some cases, your doctor may decrease your target heart rate zone to begin with 50%.

Stop exercising if your heart rate during the activity exceeds your target heart rate. This increases both cardiovascular and orthopedic risk and does not add any extra benefit.

Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program. Your doctor can help you find a program and target heart rate zone that match your needs, goals, and physical condition.

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