The pulse rate is a measurement of the heart rate, or the number of times the heart beats per minute. As the heart pushes blood through the arteries, the arteries expand and contract with the flow of the blood. Taking a pulse not only measures the heart rate, but also can indicate the following:
strength of the pulse
The normal pulse for healthy adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute. The pulse rate may fluctuate and increase with exercise, illness, injury, and emotions. Females, ages 12 and older, in general, tend to have faster heart rates than do males. Athletes, such as runners, who do a lot of cardiovascular conditioning, may have heart rates near 40 beats per minute and experience no problems.
How to check your pulse: As the heart forces blood through the arteries, you feel the beats by firmly pressing on the arteries, which are located close to the surface of the skin at certain points of the body. The pulse can be found on the side of the lower neck, on the inside of the elbow, or at the wrist. When taking your pulse:
Using the first and second fingertips, press firmly but gently on the arteries until you feel a pulse.
Begin counting the pulse when the clock's second hand is on the 12.
Count your pulse for 60 seconds (or for 15 seconds and then multiply by four to calculate beats per minute).
When counting, do not watch the clock continuously, but concentrate on the beats of the pulse.
If unsure about your results, ask another person to count for you.
If your physician has ordered you to check your own pulse and you are having difficulty finding it, consult your physician or nurse for additional instruction.
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