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How to take your pulse at home

Image of a radial pulse

Visual Learner: Let’s begin with some YouTube Video Links! 

(Videos have been reviewed by NEHH and are provided for the sole purpose of education. It is not intended to replace advice given to you by your primary care provider.)

https://youtu.be/hyfUwUkwe74 – How to check your heart rate. (pulse)

The pulse rate is the measurement of the heart rate. Heart rate refers to the number of times your heart beats per minute. As your heart beats, it pushes blood through your arteries. The arteries expand and contract with the blood flow. By checking your pulse, you can identify your heart rate, the strength of your pulse, and heart rhythms.

What you should know about your pulse

  • Your pulse is the same as your heart rate.
  • Both your pulse and your heart rate are measured in beats per minute (BPM).
  • A normal resting heart rate varies depending on a person’s age.
    • Everyone over 12 years of age: Normal heart rate of 60-100 bpm.
  • Many things can change the speed and regularity of your pulse. Including:
    • Exercise.
    • Fever.
    • Stress.
    • Heart problems.
    • Poor circulation.
    • Medicine.

How to take your pulse

  • You will need a digital stopwatch, a clock or watch that has a second hand.
  • The best time to check your pulse is in the morning as soon as you wake up or after resting for about 10 minutes.

Radial Pulse

To check the pulse in your wrist (radial artery):

  1. Turn one hand palm-up and relax your arm.
  2. Place the first two fingers of your other hand gently over your wrist, just below the base of your thumb.
  3. Place your fingertips just inside the bone that runs along the outside of your arm.
  4. Slowly increase pressure until you feel a pulsing beneath your fingers. You may need to move your fingers slightly until you find your pulse. Do Not press to hard.
  5. Count how many pulses beat you feel per minute. Or, count how many beats you feel in 30 seconds and double that number.
  6. The rhythm of your pulse should be steady and even.

Carotid pulse

Image of carotid pulse

To check the pulse in your carotid artery:

  1. Place two fingers just to one side of your Adam’s apple so that you feel a pulsing beneath your fingers. Do Not press to hard, pressure can cut circulation and make you dizzy.
  2. Count how many pulses beat you feel per minute. Or, count how many beats you feel in 30 seconds and double that number.
  3. The rhythm of your pulse should be steady and even.

Notify your doctor if:

  • You have an irregular pulse. (NOT steady or even)
  • You have an abnormal pulse along with dizziness, fatigue, or shortness of breath.

As always! We are here to help. At NEHH we strive to provide education and make information readily available. This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your primary care provider.

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References

Copyright © 2022 The Johns Hopkins University. (n.d.). Vital signs (body temperature, pulse rate, respiration rate, blood pressure). Johns Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved January 4, 2022, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/vital-signs-body-temperature-pulse-rate-respiration-rate-blood-pressure

M., A. (2017, November 12). How to check your pulse. YouTube. Retrieved January 4, 2022, from https://youtu.be/hyfUwUkwe74 

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