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Pulse Measurement

What Affects the Test

You may not be able to feel your pulse or count your pulse correctly if you:

  • Have decreased sensation in your fingers.
  • Are not using the right amount of pressure. Too much pressure can slow the heart rate, and too little pressure can cause you to miss some beats.
  • Are trying to take your pulse in an area that is covered by too much muscle or fat.
  • Are using your thumb to take your pulse. Your thumb has its own pulse, which will interfere with your counting.
  • Are moving too much while trying to take your pulse.

What To Think About

Many people take their pulse during or right after exercise, to check their heart rate and to find out if they are exercising at a healthy pace. Your heart rate (pulse) during and after exercise will be higher than your resting heart rate.

Call your doctor if your heart rate does not come down within a few minutes after you have stopped exercising.

As you continue to exercise regularly, your heart rate will not rise as high as it once did with the same amount of effort. This is a sign that you are becoming more fit. For more information, see the topic Fitness.

Other Works Consulted

  • National Institutes of Health, Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia (2011). Pulse. Available online: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003399.htm.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerThomas M. Bailey, MD - Family Medicine
Last RevisedMarch 26, 2012
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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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