Measuring your pulse rate can be useful for many things. It might be to check your circulation or to check someone else’s, it might be to measure physical fitness and exertion, or it might be to measure stress levels and to try and control them through biofeedback. Either way it is a useful skill to learn and one that always has a chance of coming in handy. Here we will look at how to successfully take a pulse so that you can do so confidently when you need to.
How to Take a Pulse
• First of all, put your index finger and your middle finger (the largest fingers next to each other) together on the side of your wrist with your palm. Normally you will do this with your wrist facing upwards.
• Next, apply a light pressure to the area until you can feel the pulsating. It might take a couple of goes in order to find the correct spot where you can feel the pulsating best. If you struggle to feel anything then try pressing slightly harder – but not so hard that you might affect the results.
• Now look at a clock of some sort and count how many pulses you can feel in your fingers in ten seconds – this will require you to concentrate on the time while also counting the pulses each time. Take that number and times it by six and you then have the pulse rate in beats per minute.
• If you find no luck finding a pulse on the wrist then you should try the neck which can also provide an accurate pulse reading. To do this place your same two fingers this time on the lower portion of the neck to one side by the windpipe slightly towards the front (the part that faces forward and left, or forward and right). You may have more luck here.
• Other potential places to try are behind the knee, inside the elbow and near the ankle joint on the soft patch of skin. For those who are overweight it may be more difficult to get a reading.
• Practice, practice, practice – if you do one day need to be able to take someone’s pulse rate to check their health then it will mean doing so under stress and with lots of distractions. Try on yourself several times and try on your friends and family and this will mean you’re ready when the time comes.
Now you have the pulse rate you need to know what to do with that number and what it means. For adults a healthy pulse rate is between 60 and 100 (it will be higher after exercise), for children it is between 70 and 120 (the younger the higher). You should also measure the strength of the pulse which is often reported on a scale of 0-4. Again by practising a lot you will begin to get an idea of what is normal and what to look for.
When taking a pulse to monitor health, remember to take into consideration any contextual information – if you have been running or been stressed then it will be higher. It’s important to take your ‘base level’ or ‘resting level’ in order to be able to measure changes so find an opportunity when you are relaxed and calm to find out your base rate. At the same time, be sure to check your pulse rate throughout the day as it can change depending on the time.