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How To Properly Check Your Pulse

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One of the first things a physician does when examining a patient is to check his or her pulse. Your pulse often tells a great deal about your health and your current state. A rapidly beating pulse, for instance, could signal an agitated state or that you had just finished exercising.

While doctors can use a variety of hospital supplies or medical supplies to check your pulse, there is a simple way in which you could do it yourself at home.

The following is a step-by-step guide illustrating how you can do this

  • First, find your pulse. The most common area to check for this is on your wrist. Stretch out your left hand (or your right, if you are left-handed), keeping your palm upwards and your elbow at a slight angle.
  • Using the index and middle fingers of your other hand, lay your fingertips on the area of the wrist that is nearest to the base of the thumb.
  • Increase or lighten the pressure until you can feel the arteries underneath the skin pumping away.
  • If you still can’t find your pulse, either shift the position of your fingertips all over your wrist until you do or point your left arm (or right arm, if you are left-handed) towards the floor to get the blood flowing through the arteries.
  • You can also try finding your pulse on your neck or on your chest.
    • To check your pulse via the neck, locate the tender, hollow crevice beneath your windpipe. Use the index and middle fingers of your right hand and gently lay your fingertips on the said area. Again, you can increase or decrease the pressure applied to find your pulse.

Note: When checking your pulse rate via the neck, do take care not to press too hard. Doing so could result in a reflex motion that will slow down your heart.

  • If you want to take your pulse via your chest area, you can use a stethoscope like the ones provided by Kemper Medical. You can start by removing your shirt and/or undergarments and then holding the stethoscope against the upper left area of your chest. Hold it steady there and listen for any beating.

You can also try installing smartphone applications that can take and measure your pulse for you. These applications normally function by having you put your fingertip over your phone’s camera lens for a minute or two.

Once you are able to detect your pulse, you can start checking your pulse rate by counting the number of beats your pulse gives off for a full minute. Alternatively, you can also pay attention to the number of beats your pulse gives off for only 30 seconds and then proceed to double that number to arrive at the same figure.

There are also other key things to consider, such as:

  • The normal pulse or heart rate for healthy adults is at 60-100 beats per minute. However, this number applies to your pulse when you are at rest. The lower your resting pulse is, the healthier you are.
  • To get the most accurate measure of your pulse or heart rate, lie down on the floor for about one minute before you begin tracking your pulse. This helps get your body into a more relaxed state.
  • You may notice the occasional missed beats while checking your pulse. Provided that this irregularity seldom occurs as you measure your pulse, it should be nothing to worry about. However, you should consult with a qualified physician if you frequently encounter missed beats while checking your pulse. This could be a symptom of atrial fibrillation, which is characterized by an irregular and fast-paced heart rate.
  • It is also recommended that you consult a physician if your pulse is consistently below 40 beats per minute or invariably above 120 beats per minute.

Lastly, you can try to measure your actual maximum heart rate and compare it to your potential maximum heart rate. This is basically the fastest your pulse rate can get. To calculate the former, you can deduct your current age from the figure 220. The resulting difference is your potential maximum heart rate.

Next, you can go for an intense run or do some brisk walking for about 30 minutes. Immediately after this exercise, find your pulse and measure your actual heart rate using any of the strategies mentioned above. Compare this figure with the potential maximum heart rate computed in the past paragraph. Those two figures should not be too far apart.