How do I check my pulse?

You can monitor your heart rate by taking your pulse and counting the number of beats in one minute (60 seconds).
Your heart rate can vary depending on your activity level. It tends to be slower when you're at rest or sleeping, and faster when you're engaged in physical activity.

To measure your resting heart rate accurately, it's essential to be still for a minute or two before checking your pulse.

Locating your pulse can be done either on your wrist or neck.

To find your wrist pulse:

  • Hold out one of your hands, with your palm facing upwards
  • Place the first (index) finger and middle finger of your other hand on the inside of your wrist, at the level where you would wear a watch, in line with the base of your thumb – don't use your thumb as it has its own strong pulse which can confuse things!
  • Press your skin lightly until you can feel your pulse – if you can't find it, try pressing a little harder or move your fingers slowly to the left and right

To find your pulse in your neck:

  • Place your first finger and middle finger to the side of your neck, just under your jaw and beside your windpipe – don't use your thumb
    Press your skin lightly to feel your pulse – if you can't find it, try slowly moving your fingers left and right. Be careful not to press too firmly on the neck, once you have found the pulse lighten your touch as much as possible whilst still feeling the pulse.

When you locate your pulse, you can determine your heart rate in two ways:

  • Count the beats you feel for 60 seconds.
    Count the beats for 30 seconds and then multiply the number by 2. This calculation provides your heart rate, which is expressed in beats per minute (bpm).

You can also assess whether your pulse is regular or irregular by observing its rhythm for about 30 seconds. Occasional irregular heartbeats, such as skipped beats, are common. However, persistent irregularity may indicate a heart condition, like atrial fibrillation (AF), which is characterised by an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate, particularly in individuals aged 65 or older.

If you have concerns about your pulse, or if you spot an irregularity, please consult with your GP and tell your Roczen clinician.

What's considered a normal heart rate?

For most adults, a resting heart rate typically falls within the range of 60 to 100 bpm. If you suspect that your resting heart rate consistently exceeds 100 bpm, or drops below 60 bpm, please consult with your GP and tell your Roczen clinician.

However it is important to note that heart rates vary considerably between individuals and a ‘normal’ heart rate depends on various factors including age and physical fitness. For instance, athletes might have a resting heart rate as low as 40 to 60 bpm.

Other factors that can influence your heart rate include stress, caffeine, alcohol consumption and some medication. If you have any concerns, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional.

Regarding exercise and its effect on your pulse:

There is much wearable technology available now, making continuous heart rate monitoring both easier and more accessible. Some people choose to monitor their heart rate during exercise, in order to stay within a desired range. Your ‘target’ heart rate for maximum cardiovascular benefit during exercise depends on both your age and your resting heart rate. Monitoring your heart rate can help you stay in your target zone and can also help you manage your recovery from exercise. Aerobic activities like walking, running, and swimming are particularly effective at raising your heart and breathing rates and promoting cardiovascular fitness.

If you would like more information on heart rate monitoring and exercise, please drop your clinician a message and they will be more than happy to help!

August 31, 2023
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