Take Your Own Pulse, Check Your Own Health

checking pulse

Your heart is a pump which pumps blood out around your body through your arteries. You can feel the blood pumping where the arteries are close to your skin.


These are your pulse points, and if you feel gently with your fingertips you can count how fast your heart is beating.

So basically your pulse, pulse rate, or heart rate refer to how many times your heart beats per minute or a specific unit of time. It can also be translated as how many contractions occur in the heart’s ventricles.

Difference between pulse and heart rate

Heart rate refers to the heart, how many times it contracts in a given time. Pulse rate refers to the artery you are checking with your fingers, how many times it bulges when there is a gush surge. The figure for heart rate and pulse rate is the nearly always same. A person’s heart rate varies depending on what they are doing – it is slower when they are sleeping and faster when exercising.


How to Take Your Pulse

Your pulse can be found where an artery passes close to the skin, such as your neck or wrist.


Hold one of your hands out with the palm facing upwards and the elbow slightly bent. Place your index (first) and middle fingers of your other hand on the inside of your wrist, just below the base of your thumb. Press the two fingers lightly on your skin until you feel your pulse. If you feel nothing, either press harder or search with your fingers for the artery and press again. Do not press your thumb on your wrist because it has its own pulse, an artery goes through it.

Count how many beats there are over a 20-second period and then multiply the total by 3, which will give you your heart rate (per minute). Some people prefer to continue for thirty seconds and then multiply by 2 or to count for a whole minute for better accuracy.


You can also find your pulse by pressing the same two fingers on the side of your neck (carotid artery), beside your Adam’s apple in the hollow area. If you are over 65, be careful you do not press too hard; there is a risk of becoming lightheaded.

Other Pulse Check Areas

  • The popliteal artery – behind the knee.
  • The abdominal aorta – over the abdomen.
  • The apex of the heart – can be felt if you place your hand/fingers on your chest.
  • The basilar artery – close to the ear.
  • The brachial artery – inside the elbow or under the biceps.
  • The dorsalis pedis – the middle of dorsum of the foot (the back, or upper surface, of the foot).
  • The femoral artery – in the groin.
  • The posterior tibial artery – the ankle joint.
  • The superficial temporal artery – the temple.


How to Find Someone Else’s Pulse

Make sure the person is resting – seated with their back supported and feet on the floor, or lying down. Stand facing the person and ask them to extend their arm toward you or take their hand, pull gently and stretch the arm toward you, with their palm facing upward. Then follow the same procedures explained above for when you take your own pulse.

For a healthy human being, aged 18 years, anything between 60 and 100 beats per minutes is usually considered as a normal resting heart rate. Fit people tend to have a slower heart rate than unfit individuals. Some Olympic athletes have been known to have a resting heart rate of 40 bmp (beats per minute). In fact, a resting heart rate of 29 bpm was once recorded with Miguel Indurain, a champion cyclist.

Some people may find that their pulse is irregular – during the 20, 30, or 60 seconds when they feel their pulse, the beats do not follow a steady beat. If your pulse feels irregular you should contact your doctor because you might have atrial fibrillation (AF), the leading cause of stroke in the world.


Image courtesy: fitstudio.com

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