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Finding Your Pulse Is the First Step to Calculate Heart Rate

There are many aspects involved in living a heart-healthy lifestyle, and knowing how to locate your pulse is one of them. Being aware of your pulse can help you when you need to calculate heart rate to monitor your level of fitness and recognize emerging health troubles.

Finding Your Pulse

Your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats in a minute, and your pulse is the throbbing of your arteries as blood moves through them, pumped by your beating heart. The National Institutes of Health explains that your pulse can be found where an artery passes close to the skin, and that two of the most common areas to locate a pulse are the side of your neck and your wrist.

  • Wrist: Hold your hand out with your palm facing upward and your elbow relaxed and slightly bent. Using your other hand, put your first and middle fingers on the inside of your wrist, slightly under the base of your thumb.
  • Neck: With your first and middle fingers, gently press the side of your neck in the hollow area next to your Adam's apple or wind pipe, which is where your carotid artery is. If you are age 65 or older, use caution to not apply too much pressure to the carotid artery, as it can make you feel lightheaded.

How to Measure Your Heart Rate

To get the most accurate heart rate reading, place your first two fingers over your pulse. Using a stopwatch or a watch with a second hand, count the number of beats that you feel over 60 seconds.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), your resting heart rate is how fast the heart is pumping with the least amount of blood when you are not exercising. A healthy person who is sitting or lying and is calm and relaxed normally has a heart rate between 60 and 100 beats per minute. A heart rate lower than 60 is also regularly seen in people who are very physically active because active people have a better-conditioned heart muscle that does not need to pump as strongly to maintain a steady beat.

Other Key Factors

According to the AHA, many factors can influence your heart rate. Increased air temperature and humidity cause the heart to pump more blood than normal, which can increase the heart rate by five to 10 beats per minute. Increased stress, anxiety, or feeling very happy or sad can also increase your heart rate.

A normal heart rate and pulse will vary based on age, health, and activity level. As you get older, the rate and regularity of your heart rate can change. You want to stay aware of your heart rate as you adjust to physical activity throughout your life. Finding your pulse is the first step.

Your exercise intensity level should always be based on your heart rate, which ultimately determines your level of fitness and exercise goals. An optimal fitness program can be tailored by exercise type, frequency, intensity, and duration. Decisions about all these factors should be made with your heart in mind. Dignity Health's heart rate calculator can help you calculate heart rate levels for when you're engaged in various levels of activity.

Your heart rate is a valuable tool that can give you insight into your health and can help you know you are getting the right type of exercise. The NIH recommends that you call your doctor if your heart rate becomes extremely low, if you have repeated incidents of fast heartbeats, or if you feel weak, dizzy, or faint. Your doctor can help you determine if a change in your heart rate is a medical emergency.

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