Pulse rate

Last Updated: April 29, 2024

Pulse rate

Pulse rate, often referred to as heart rate, is a vital sign that indicates the number of times your heart beats per minute. This measure is crucial for assessing overall cardiovascular health and physical condition. A normal pulse rate varies from person to person and can change with activity levels, emotions, and overall health status. Understanding your pulse rate can help monitor your health, signal changes in your physical condition, and guide lifestyle adjustments.

What is Pulse Rate?

Pulse rate, often referred to as heart rate, measures the number of times a person’s heart beats per minute (bpm). It represents one of the simplest and most vital indicators of health, providing insights into heart rhythm, heart health, and overall physical fitness.

How Do You Measure Pulse Rate?

How Do You Measure Pulse Rate?

Step 1: Find a Suitable Location to Measure the Pulse

You can measure your pulse at several locations where an artery is close to the skin. The most commonly used spots are:

  • Wrist (Radial Artery): Place your index and middle fingers on the inside of the wrist, below the base of the thumb. Do not use your thumb as it has its own pulse that might interfere with an accurate reading.
  • Neck (Carotid Artery): Gently press your index and middle fingers against the side of your neck, just under the jawline.
  • Inside of the Elbow (Brachial Artery): This site is often used in medical settings and can also be a good spot to check the pulse.
  • Top of the Foot (Dorsalis Pedis Artery): Located on the top of the foot, between the first and second bones of the foot.

Step 2: Get Ready to Measure

Once you’ve located the pulse, follow these steps:

  1. Position your fingers correctly: Ensure that your fingers are flat and softly pressing on the skin. Feel for the pulse under your fingers; you should detect a regular tapping sensation.
  2. Relax: Try to relax and stay still while measuring your pulse to ensure an accurate reading.

Step 3: Count the Beats

Now that you have located the pulse:

  1. Use a timer or watch: Activate the timer and prepare to count the beats.
  2. Count the beats for 30 seconds: Count each beat you feel for half a minute. To get your pulse rate in beats per minute (bpm), multiply this number by two.
  3. For more accuracy: If desired, count for a full 60 seconds, especially if you suspect irregularities in the heart rate or are measuring for medical purposes.

Step 4: Record and Interpret the Results

  • Normal Pulse Rates: For adults, a normal resting heart rate ranges from 60 to 100 bpm. Athletes or more fit individuals might have a lower resting heart rate, often between 40 and 60 bpm.
  • Keep a record: It’s useful to record your pulse rate regularly to monitor trends or share with your healthcare provider.

What is a Normal Pulse Rate?

A normal pulse rate varies widely among individuals and depends on factors such as age, fitness level, and overall health. For adults, a typical resting pulse rate ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute (bpm). Athletes or individuals who are very fit may have a resting pulse rate lower than 60 bpm, often ranging between 40 and 60 bpm, which indicates a highly efficient heart function.

Pulse Rate Chart by Age Group

Age GroupNormal Resting Pulse Rate (beats per minute)
Newborns (0-1 month)70-190
Infants (1-11 months)80-160
Toddlers (1-2 years)80-130
Preschoolers (3-5 years)80-120
Children (6-15 years)70-100
Adults (over 18 years)60-100
Seniors (over 65 years)60-100

Notes on the Chart

  • Resting Pulse Rate: This refers to the heart rate when an individual is at rest and is a good indicator of cardiovascular fitness and heart health.
  • Variability: It’s important to note that factors like stress, temperature, and illness can affect pulse rates.
  • Athletes: Athletes may have lower resting heart rates due to more efficient heart function and better overall cardiovascular health.

What is a Fast Pulse Rate?

A fast pulse rate, medically known as tachycardia, refers to a heart rate that exceeds the normal resting rate. Generally, for adults, a heart rate over 100 beats per minute (bpm) at rest is considered tachycardic. This condition can result from various factors, including stress, anxiety, medications, heart conditions, or fever.

What is a Slow Pulse Rate?

Conversely, a slow pulse rate, known as bradycardia, occurs when the heart rate is less than 60 bpm while at rest. While common in well-trained athletes who have efficient heart function, bradycardia can also be a sign of a potential health problem, especially if it causes symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, or fainting. This could indicate issues with the heart’s electrical system or other underlying health problems.

What is Abnormal Pulse Rate?

An abnormal pulse refers to any deviation from the normal rhythm or rate of the heart. This can encompass a range of conditions, indicating either a temporary issue or an underlying health problem. Here’s a closer look at what constitutes an abnormal pulse and the different types it can take:

Types of Abnormal Pulse

  1. Tachycardia: This occurs when the heart rate exceeds 100 beats per minute in adults while at rest. It can be triggered by exercise, anxiety, fever, or underlying medical conditions affecting the heart.
  2. Bradycardia: Defined as a resting heart rate under 60 beats per minute in adults, bradycardia may be normal in well-trained athletes but could signal heart problems or complications from medication in others.
  3. Irregular Pulse (Arrhythmia): An irregular pulse is characterized by an inconsistent heartbeat pattern. It might feel like the heart is skipping beats, fluttering, or beating too rapidly or slowly without a regular rhythm.

Causes of Abnormal Pulse

Several factors can lead to an abnormal pulse, including:

  • Heart conditions: such as atrial fibrillation, heart valve issues, or heart failure.
  • Electrolyte imbalances: which affect heart function.
  • Changes in heart muscle: which can result from aging or heart disease.
  • High blood pressure: and other conditions that put additional strain on the heart.

Symptoms Associated with Abnormal Pulse

Some common symptoms that might accompany an abnormal pulse include:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain

What Are Heart Palpitations?

Heart palpitations refer to the sensation of having a fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heart. This experience can occur unexpectedly and vary in frequency and duration. Typically, palpitations are harmless and often resolve on their own without medical intervention. However, they can sometimes reflect an underlying health issue that may require medical attention.

Common Causes of Heart Palpitations

Several factors can trigger heart palpitations, including:

  • Stress and anxiety: Emotional stress and panic attacks can lead to palpitations.
  • Caffeine and nicotine: Stimulants found in coffee, tea, chocolate, and cigarettes can increase heart rate.
  • Medication: Certain medications, such as those for asthma or depression, can cause palpitations as a side effect.
  • Hormonal changes: Hormone fluctuations associated with menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause might cause palpitations.
  • Alcohol and drugs: Consumption of alcohol and recreational drugs can also trigger palpitations.
  • Exercise: Palpitations can occur during or immediately after physical activity.

Symptoms Accompanying Heart Palpitations

While palpitations primarily involve a noticeable heart rhythm, other symptoms might accompany this sensation:

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest discomfort
  • Fainting

Importance of Monitoring Pulse Rate

Regularly checking your pulse rate is a simple yet effective way to monitor your overall heart health. It serves as a primary indicator of your cardiovascular condition and can provide early warnings of potential health issues. Here are key reasons why it’s important to keep tabs on your pulse rate:

Early Detection of Heart Conditions

Monitoring your pulse can help detect signs of heart conditions that might not cause immediate symptoms, such as arrhythmias or early stages of heart disease. Catching these early can lead to interventions that might prevent more serious conditions from developing.

Assessing Physical Health

Your pulse rate reflects your heart’s health and fitness levels. A lower resting heart rate is typically a sign of good cardiovascular fitness and efficient heart function, while a higher resting rate might indicate stress, illness, or other health issues.

Impact of Lifestyle on Heart Health

Regular pulse checks can help you see how lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, and stress management affect your heart. For example, an increased resting heart rate over time might suggest a need to improve aspects of your lifestyle or manage stress more effectively.

Guiding Treatment Decisions

For those diagnosed with heart conditions, monitoring pulse rate is crucial for managing the illness. It helps in adjusting medications, determining the effectiveness of treatments, and making decisions about lifestyle adjustments to better support heart health.

Enhancing Safety During Exercise

For those starting a new fitness program, particularly people with existing health conditions or who are new to exercise, monitoring the pulse rate during physical activity ensures that they are not exceeding safe heart rate limits.

Identifying Other Health Issues

Abnormalities in pulse rate can be indicators of non-cardiac issues, such as infections, dehydration, and hormonal imbalances. Recognizing these can prompt further investigation and treatment.

Peace of Mind

Knowing your normal pulse rate and observing consistent, healthy readings can provide peace of mind regarding your cardiovascular health.


What Is a Good Pulse Rate by Age?

Good pulse rates vary: newborns 70-190 bpm, children 70-100 bpm, adults 60-100 bpm, athletes 40-60 bpm.

What Rate Is a Normal Pulse Rate?

A normal pulse rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute (bpm).

What Is an Alarming Pulse Rate?

An alarming pulse rate is over 100 bpm at rest or under 60 bpm with symptoms like dizziness.

Which Pulse Is Too High?

A pulse over 100 bpm at rest is considered too high and may indicate tachycardia.

Should I Go to the ER if My Heart Rate Is Over 100?

Visit the ER if your heart rate exceeds 100 bpm with symptoms like chest pain, fainting, or severe discomfort.

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