How to Check Your Pulse
How can I take my own pulse?
You can find your pulse on your wrist, neck, elbow or even the top of your foot. But the easiest place for taking your pulse is your wrist. Follow these steps:
- Turn one arm so your palm is facing up.
- 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.
- 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.
- Count each pulse you feel for 30 seconds. (A clock or stopwatch is helpful.)
- 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:
- 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.
- Press firmly until you feel a pulse. If you can’t feel it, move your fingers around slightly and increase pressure until you do.
- Count the pulses for 30 seconds (using a clock or stopwatch).
- 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 non-athletes.
What is a 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 over): 60 to 100 bpm.
What is a normal pulse rate when exercising?
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 to 133 bpm.
What if I notice missed beats while taking my pulse?
It’s normal to have occasional irregular heartbeats or notice missed beats. If it happens often or causes you significant symptoms like shortness of breath, dizziness or chest pain, talk to your healthcare provider.
What if my heart rate seems too low?
Bradycardia is the term for a low heart rate, which is anything under 60 bpm. If you’re an athlete, a low heart rate doesn’t pose a health risk. It is normal for your heart rate to slow down when you're sleeping. Also, medications such as beta blockers 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 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.
- Air temperature: Higher temperatures or humidity make the heart pump more blood, so your pulse rate may go up.
- Body size: People with obesity may have a slightly higher heart rate.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Learning how to take your own pulse can help you monitor your heart health over time. The easiest and most reliable way to find your heart rate is to count your pulses for 30 to 60 seconds on your wrist. Do this regularly as a quick, simple way to keep tabs on your health.
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