Your pulse usually has a strong steady or regular
rhythm. Your blood vessel should feel soft. An occasional pause or extra beat
is normal. Normally, your heart rate will speed up a little when you breathe
deeply. You can check this normal change in your pulse rate by changing your
breathing pattern while taking your pulse.
Many conditions can
change your pulse rate. Your doctor will talk with you about any abnormal
results that may be related to your symptoms and past health.
A fast heart rate may be caused
- Activity or exercise.
- Some medicines, such as decongestants and those used to treat
- Some types of heart
- An overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism).
- Stimulants such as caffeine,
amphetamines, diet pills, and
- Drinking alcohol.
A slow resting heart rate may be caused
- Some types of heart disease and medicine to treat heart disease.
- High levels of fitness.
- An underactive
thyroid gland (hypothyroidism).
A weak pulse may be caused by:
Heart rate during exercise
Many people use a
target heart rate to guide how hard they exercise. Use this
Interactive Tool: What Is Your Target Heart Rate? This
tool calculates your target heart rate using your maximum heart rate (based on
your age), your resting heart rate, and how active you are.
exercise, your heart should be working hard enough for a healthy effect but not
so hard that your heart is overworked. You benefit the most when your exercise
heart rate is within the range of your target heart rate. You can take your
pulse rate during or after exercise to see if you are exercising at your target
Or you can wear a heart rate monitor during exercise
so you do not have to take your pulse. A heart rate monitor shows your pulse
rate continuously, so you see how exercise changes your heart rate.
To check your heart rate while exercising:
- After exercising for about 10 minutes, stop
and take your pulse.
- Measure your heart rate by placing two
fingers gently against your wrist (don't use your thumb). If it is hard to feel
the pulse in your wrist, find the artery in your neck that is just to either
side of the windpipe. Press gently.
- Count the beats for 15 seconds.
Multiply the number of beats by 4. This is your beats per minute.
- Make changes in how hard you exercise so that
your heart rate stays within the range of your target heart rate.
Target heart rate is only a guide. Everyone is different,
so pay attention to how you feel, how hard you are breathing, how fast your
heart is beating, and how much you feel the exertion in your muscles.