How To Check Your Pulse

When you check your pulse, you feel the force of blood going through an artery close to your skin’s surface with each heartbeat. You can find your pulse on your wrist, neck, elbow or even the top of your foot. The easiest place to check your pulse is your wrist or neck. Taking your pulse tells you the number of times your heart beats in one minute.


How to check your pulse in five steps
Learning how to check your pulse can help you keep tabs on your heart health.

What is your pulse?

Your pulse is a way of counting heartbeats per minute. You can feel your pulse in various parts of your body.

What you feel when you take your pulse is the pressure in your arteries going up briefly as your heart pushes out more blood. Every time your heart beats, it squeezes and propels blood through the network of arteries in your body.

Between beats, your heart relaxes, which brings the pressure back down again. That’s why each heartbeat feels like a single push rather than a constant flow of pressure like water through a hose.

Where to check your pulse

You can find your pulse on your wrist, neck, elbow or even the top of your foot. But the easiest place to take your pulse is your wrist.


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How can I take my own pulse?

You can check your pulse anytime, but people often check it when they want a quick measure of a person’s health. For example, a healthcare provider will take your pulse after a traumatic injury or during a routine checkup. People also check their pulse while exercising if they’re trying to reach a certain heart rate.

You don’t need to do anything to prepare. If you’re trying to relax, take some deep breaths.

Follow these steps to check your pulse on your wrist:

  1. Turn one arm so your palm is facing up.
  2. Place the middle three fingers of your other hand in the upper groove of your upturned wrist, below where your thumb connects to your wrist.
  3. Press firmly. You should feel a subtle, pulsing (beating or throbbing) sensation. If you can’t feel anything, apply more pressure with the tips of your fingers.
  4. Count each pulse you feel for 30 seconds. (A clock or stopwatch is helpful.)
  5. Double the number of pulses you counted. This equals your heart rate in beats per minute (bpm). If you counted 40 pulses, multiply that by 2. Your heart rate is 80 bpm.

The steps to finding your pulse on your neck are slightly different:

  1. Place your index finger (next to your thumb) and middle finger on the side of your neck. They should go in the groove under your jaw and next to your windpipe.
  2. Press firmly until you feel a pulse. If you can’t feel it, move your fingers around slightly and increase pressure until you do.
  3. Count the pulses for 30 seconds (using a clock or stopwatch).
  4. Double the number of pulses you counted to get your heart rate.

You can also count the beats for 10 seconds and use this formula:

Count your pulse: _____ beats in 10 seconds x 6 = _____ beats per minute

What is a normal pulse rate?

For the average adult at rest, the normal pulse rate is usually between 60 and 100 bpm.

The more active and fit you are, the lower your average resting heart rate. Athletes tend to have lower resting heart rates than nonathletes.

Normal pulse rate by age:

Average heart rates at rest based on age:

  • Children (ages 6 to 15): 70 to 100 bpm.
  • Adults (ages 18 and older): 60 to 100 bpm.

Pulse rate during exercise (physical activity)

During physical activity, your pulse rate should be between 50% to 70% of your maximum heart rate.

You can calculate your maximum heart rate using this formula:

220 – your age = predicted maximum heart rate

For example, a 30-year-old’s predicted maximum heart rate is 190 bpm (220 – 30 = 190). Using this maximum heart rate, a normal pulse rate during exercise would be between 95 and 133 bpm.


What if I notice missed beats while taking my pulse?

It’s normal to have occasional irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia) or notice missed beats. If it happens often or causes you significant symptoms like shortness of breathdizziness or chest pain, talk to your healthcare provider.

What if my heart rate seems too low?

In some cases, it’s OK to have a heart rate under 60 bpm (bradycardia). A low heart rate is normal if:

  • You’re an athlete.
  • You're sleeping.
  • You’re taking medications like beta-blockers that can lower your heart rate.

But make an appointment with your healthcare provider if you have a low heart rate along with these symptoms:


What if my heart rate is too high?

If your heart is beating more than 100 times a minute during physical activity, that’s OK. Your body needs more oxygen when you’re exercising. You may have a higher heart rate if you’re dehydrated or fighting an infection.

But if you have a fast heart rate (tachycardia) when you’re at rest and healthy, you may have a medical condition. Talk to your provider if you have a rapid heart rate along with dizziness or heart palpitations.

What might affect my heart rate?

There are a few factors that can change your heart rate, including:

  • Body positioning: Your body’s position can affect the results when you take your pulse. For example, if you start taking your pulse within 15 to 20 seconds of standing up, your heart rate may rise a little. Movement changes your heartbeat’s rhythm, which will affect your pulse.
  • Emotions: Feeling anxious, stressed or extreme emotions can increase your heart rate.
  • Medications: Some medicines, such as beta-blockers, can lower your heart rate slightly. Some asthma medicines can make your heart rate faster.
  • Air temperature: Higher temperatures or humidity make the heart pump more blood, so your pulse rate may go up.
  • Body size: People who have obesity (a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or more) may have a slightly higher heart rate.

Additional Common Questions

What does it feel like when you check your pulse?

You’ll feel the light pressure of your fingers on your skin when you take your pulse.

What happens after I check my pulse?

You can go right back to what you were doing before checking your pulse.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Maybe you feel stressed and your heart is racing. Or maybe you’re just curious about how many times your heart is beating. Knowing how to take your own pulse can help you monitor your heart health whenever you want. Doing this regularly is a quick, simple way to keep tabs on your health. Be sure to talk with your provider if you’re concerned about your pulse.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/14/2024.

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