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Pulse Measurement

How To Prepare

All you need to check your pulse is a watch with a second hand or a digital stop watch. Find a quiet place, where you can sit down and are not distracted when you are learning to check your pulse.

How It Is Done

You can measure your pulse rate anywhere an artery comes close to the skin, such as in your wrist or neck slideshow.gif, temple area, groin, behind the knee, or top of your foot.

You can easily check your pulse on the inside of your wrist, below your thumb.

  • Gently place 2 fingers of your other hand on this artery.
  • Do not use your thumb because it has its own pulse that you may feel.
  • Count the beats for 30 seconds; then double the result to get the number of beats per minute.

You can also check your pulse in the carotid artery. This is located in your neck, on either side of your windpipe. Be careful when checking your pulse in this location, especially if you are older than 65. If you press too hard, you may become lightheaded and fall.

You can buy an electronic pulse meter to automatically check your pulse in your finger, wrist, or chest. These devices are helpful if you have trouble measuring your pulse or if you wish to check your pulse while you exercise.

How It Feels

Checking your pulse should not cause pain.

Risks

Checking your pulse should not cause problems. Be careful when checking your pulse in your neck, especially if you are older than 65. If you press too hard, you may become lightheaded and fall.

Call your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • An irregular or rapid heartbeat (palpitations). Palpitations can be persistent or may come and go (episodic).
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath

Talk to your doctor if you have a fast heart rate, many skipped or extra beats, or if the blood vessel where you check your pulse feels hard.

Results

Your pulse is the rate at which your heart beats. Your pulse is usually called your heart rate, which is the number of times your heart beats each minute (bpm).

Normal resting heart rate

The chart below shows the normal range of a resting heart rate (pulse rate after resting 10 minutes) in beats per minute, according to age. Many things can cause changes in your normal heart rate, including your age, activity level, and the time of day.

Resting heart rate
Age or fitness level Beats per minute (bpm)

Babies to age 1:

100–160

Children ages 1 to 10:

70–120

Children ages 11 to 17:

60–100

Adults:

60–100

Well-conditioned athletes:

40–60

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 26, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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