How to Check Your Pulse

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Checking your pulse allows you to determine your heart rate without any special equipment. This can be useful if you’re trying to lose weight or you have a brain condition. Read on to find out how to easily and painlessly check your pulse.

EditSteps

EditFinding and Recording Your Pulse

  1. Use your index finger and third finger when finding a pulse. Don’t use your thumb when finding it, as it has its own pulse.
    Check Your Pulse Step 1 Version 5.jpg
    • Find the radial pulse. This is the pulse on the inside of the wrist. Use the pads of your index finger and third finger. Place these just below the wrist creases on the thumb side. Press lightly until you feel a pulse (blood pulsing under your fingers). If necessary, move fingers around until you feel the pulse.
    • Find the carotid pulse. To feel a pulse on the side of the neck just below the jaw line, place your index finger and your third finger in the hollow between the windpipe and the large muscle in the neck. Press lightly until you feel a pulse.
  2. Check and record your heart rate. Use a watch or clock with a second hand. Count the number of times you feel a throb for 1 minute ( 60 seconds) this is the most accurate method.
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    • If you don’t have a watch or a clock around, the Cleveland Clinic Health System recommends counting the beats you feel for 15 seconds and multiplying this by four to get your heart rate per minute:
    • Your pulse is: (beats in 15 seconds) x 4 = y (your heart rate) You can count beats for 30 seconds and multiply by 2. This is less accurate but an option. Only do this if you do not have a clock.
  3. Determine your normal heart rate. For adults, normal resting heart rate is 50-70 beats per minute. For children under age 18, normal heart rate is 70-100 beats per minute. This is your heart rate when you are at rest. Determine your beats per minute by following the steps listed above.
    Check Your Pulse Step 3 Version 5.jpg
    • Remember, you can determine your heart rate by counting your pulse for 15 seconds and multiplying that number by 4.
  4. Check the strength of the pulse to see if it is strong or weak. Your pulse’s strength cannot be calculated. While feeling your pulse, you should decide whether your pulse is “weak”, “faint”, “strong”, or “bounding”.[1]
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  5. Check the rhythm of your pulse. This is a measurement of your heart’s pulsations and the pauses between them. If your pulse is steady, it should be marked as regular. If you detect a skip or other oddity about your pulse, it may be irregular.[2]
    Check Your Pulse Step 5 Version 5.jpg

EditWhat To Do If You Can’t Find Your Pulse

  1. Try using your fingertips instead of laying your fingers across your wrist. Place them in different places and stop in each location for five seconds.
    Check Your Pulse Step 6 Version 5.jpg
  2. Try varying the pressure of your fingertips on your wrist. Sometimes lightening your touch or pressing harder will help you find your pulse.
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  3. Try pointing your arm pointing towards the floor. Do this if you have been holding it up to your face. The change in blood flow may help you find your pulse.
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  4. If you have a stethoscope, you can use it here. Make sure you lift up or remove your shirt, hold the stethoscope against your bare chest, and listen. Count each beat as you hear it, and listen for any skipped beats.
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EditFinding Your Maximum And Target Heart Rates

  1. Find your potential maximum heart rate. This is the highest your pulse rate can get. You will use your potential maximum heart rate to determine your target heart rate. To find yours, follow this formula: 220-(your age)=(predicted maximum heart rate)
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    • Try exercising intensely for 30 minutes and then checking your heart rate immediately after (or even during) your exercise. Compare your real maximum heart rate to your potential maximum heart rate. The numbers should be relatively similar.
    • If you’re taking your pulse during exercise, keep your feet moving as you do so or blood might accumulate in your extremities.
  2. Find your target heart rate. This is 60 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. The reason there is a range rather than a solid number is because everyone has a different fitness level. While you exercise, check your pulse for 15 seconds. The number should be 60 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.
    Check Your Pulse Step 11.jpg

EditTips

  • To measure your relaxed heart rate, try lying down on the floor for one minute before taking your pulse.
  • Smartphone apps are now available that will take your pulse for you. Install a pulse app, then measure your pulse following its instructions (usually by holding a finger steady over the camera lens).
  • You can also take your pulse at your temple or chest, but these methods are far less common.

EditWarnings

  • If you notice skipped beats while doing this procedure, seek medical attention.
  • If you can obviously tell that your heartbeat is irregular as well as very fast, follow up with medical attention.
  • Do not palpate both carotid arteries on your neck simultaneously as it will decrease the blood circulation to the brain.
  • Do not press too hard on your neck, as it can stimulate a reflex mechanism that can slow down the heart.
  • If there are any irregularities in your pulse, seek medical advice as soon as possible.

EditRelated wikiHows

  • Lower Resting Heart Rate
  • Be More Aware of Your Health **Do CPR on an Adult
  • Check Your Blood Pressure with a Sphygmomanometer
  • Lower High Blood Pressure Without Using Medication
  • Lower High Blood Pressure Using Slow Breathing with Music

EditSources and Citations

  • VideoJug A video of taking a pulse. Original source of article. Shared with permission and appreciation.

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