How do I Measure Pulse Rate?

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  • Written By: Thomas M. Sisco
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  • Last Modified Date: 31 August 2019
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A person's pulse rate, also known as heart rate, is simply the number of times his or her heart beats in one minute. There are several ways you can measure pulse rate. The two most simple and most commonly used methods involve taking the carotid pulse or taking the radial pulse. Both methods require access to a clock or watch with the seconds indicated on it. You can measure pulse rate by placing your index and middle fingers on the correct spot to feel the pulse, counting the number of beats for a certain number of seconds, then using simple math to calculate the beats per minute.

The first method involves taking the carotid pulse. This method uses an artery in the neck. Start by placing the index and middle finger of one hand beside the larynx, otherwise known as the voice box or Adam's apple. Using the flat part of the underside of the two fingers, press gently but firmly until you feel a pulse. You may need to move your fingers around in order to find it.

The second involves taking the radial pulse using an artery in the wrist. Place the flat part of your index and middle fingers of one hand over the underside of the wrist, below the base of the thumb. Press gently but firmly until you feel a pulse. Again, you might need to move your fingers around a bit in order to find it.


After you have found the pulse, you can begin measuring the pulse rate. Using the seconds hand on a clock or watch, count the beats for one full minute, or count them for 30 seconds and multiply by two. This will give you the number of beats per minute, or pulse rate. If you are pressed for time, you can count the number of beats for 10 seconds and multiply by six or for 15 seconds and multiply by four, but this will give you a less accurate measurement.

A resting heart rate is determined after at least 10 minutes of inactivity. An active heart rate can be tested at any time during exercise or elevated activity. The normal range for a resting pulse rate for people older than age 10 is 60-100 beats per minute. People who are in superior physical shape, such as trained athletes, often have a normal resting pulse rate of 40-60 beats per minute.


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Post 4

@ankara-- You're right. The reason that the thumb cannot be used is because the thumb has its own pulse. That's why people who use their thumb will hear two different pulses and the measurement will be incorrect.

Post 3

@literally45-- I'm not sure what you mean by smaller beats and prominent beats. If you don't feel the beat regularly, it means that you haven't placed your fingers correctly.

I take my pulse from my wrist and I always adjust my fingers to make sure that I'm feeling my pulse strongly before I start counting. Some people make the mistake of using their thumb but the middle and index fingers are the best for feeling pulse.

It can be difficult to count for the whole minute, so I usually count for fifteen seconds and multiply that by four. My mom is a nurse and this is what she does too.

If you're having a very hard time

measuring your pulse, you could buy one of those pulse watches that measure it for you. I'm not sure if they work well though. I think it's best to learn to measure pulse with our fingers because it will be of use if there is a medical emergency.
Post 2

I've learned how to measure pulse rate, but I can't seem to do it right. I feel prominent beats with my fingers, but I also feel smaller beats and I get confused which I should be counting.

Does anyone else have this problem?

Post 1

This website helped me so much with my science project. I got so much info. Plus it was really easy to source! Thanks a lot wise geek.

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