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How to Measure Your Pulse Rate

Since pulse rates can be an effective predictor of upcoming health complications, it’s important to know how to measure your pulse rate. Normal heart rates tend to vary from person to person, and factors such as lifestyle, activity levels, medications taken, the position of the body, and even the air temperature can have an affect on pulse rates. The best way to determine what your target heart rate should be is talk with your healthcare provider.


Pulse rates can be measured in a few different ways and at various locations on the body, and they can be measured manually or with the use of a heart rate monitor. 


Locations for manually checking pulse rates include the:

* Wrist

* Carotid artery - in the neck

* Popliteal artery - behind the knee

* Abdominal aorta - over the abdomen

* Apex of the heart - can be felt if you place your hand/fingers on your chest

* Basilar artery - close to the ear

* Brachial artery - inside the elbow or under the biceps

* Dorsalis pedis - middle dorsum of the foot (the back, or upper surface, of the foot)

* Femoral artery - in the groin

* Posterior tibial artery - the ankle joint

* Superficial temporal artery - the temple


The easiest places to find pulse rates are where the arteries pass closest to the surface of the skin, such as in the wrist and neck.


How to find a pulse in the wrist:

Step 1 – Hold out one hand with the palm facing upwards and the elbow slightly bent

Step 2 – Using the opposite hand, place the index finger and middle finger on the     inside of the wrist with the fingers positioned just below the base of the thumb. (see figure 1 below)

Step 3 – Apply slight pressure on the skin until you are able to detect a pulse. If not detected immediately try applying a little more pressure or repositioning your fingers until the pulse is detected

**Note – do not use your thumbs since they have their own pulse, which can interfere with obtaining accurate measurements

Step 4 – Count how many beats are detected within a 20 second time period

Step 5 – Multiply the number of beats by 3 to determine the number of beats per minute



Estimated target heart rates for different ages


Target HR Zone 50-85%

Average Maximum Heart Rate, 100%

20 years 

100-170 beats per minute

200 beats per minute

30 years

95-162 beats per minute

190 beats per minute

35 years

93-157 beats per minute

185 beats per minute

40 years

90-153 beats per minute

180 beats per minute

45 years

88-149 beats per minute

175 beats per minute

50 years

85-145 beats per minute

170 beats per minute

55 years

83-140 beats per minute

165 beats per minute

60 years

80-136 beats per minute

160 beats per minute

65 years

78-132 beats per minute

155 beats per minute

70 years

75-128 beats per minute

150 beats per minute

*Table courtesy of the American Heart Association


Regularly monitoring your pulse rate, or even better yet, keeping a log of your pulse rate can be a quick, simple, cheap, and very effective method of predicting health complications, which when detected and diagnosed early on can often be treated and possibly save your life.