How to Take Your Pulse

pulse at wrist
One of most common arteries for counting your pulse are the radial artery, located on the inside of the wrist near the side of your thumb.
Credit: dragon_fang |

The heart is a muscle, and the pulse rate is a measure of how many times the heart contracts and relaxes per minute.

For most people, heart rate and pulse rate are the same. However, heart rate and pulse rate are technically different because heart rate measures the rate of contractions of the heart, while pulse rate measures the rate at which blood pressure increases throughout the body. For individuals with specific heart conditions that result in the heart being unable to pump blood efficiently with each contraction, their pulse rate can be lower than their heart rate. But that is an exception.

An apical pulse is the pulse over the top of the heart, as typically heard through a stethoscope with the patient lying on his or her left side. The heart beat consists of two distinct sounds — often referred to as "lub-dub" — and each lub-dub counts as a beat. The normal apical pulse rate of an adult is 60 to 100 beats.

Short of performing an electrocardiogram, doctors find that apical pulse most accurate, non-invasive way of assessing cardiac health. The apical pulse provides information on count, rhythm, strength and equality of the heart.


What is an average pulse rate?

A normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute (bpm). Women do tend to have a slightly higher heart rate, with the average resting heart rate in women is in the mid-70s, while it is only about 70 in men. This is primarily due to the fact that the male heart muscle is stronger.

Other factors — including age, body size, fitness level, heart conditions, whether you're sitting or standing, medication, emotions and even air temperature — can impact the resting heart rate.

Generally, people such as athletes with good cardiovascular fitness, experience a lower resting heart rate, sometimes 40 or below. [Related: New Heart Rate Trackers: Is Knowing Your Pulse Useful?]

Taking pulse on neck
Another common place to take your pulse is the carotid artery, found on the neck between the wind pipe and neck muscle.
Credit: dragon_fang | View full size image

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