Postdate: 25 April 2018
“What is your pulse?'' It is one of the most commonly used terms in the medical setting. You quite often also hear people talk about this at running events and exercise sessions. Below, you can read how to quickly and easily check your own heart rate.
Where does it come from?
The pulse is a quick measurement of one of the most important functions of the heart: heart rate. In our Dutch language the word 'pols' (wrist) not only refers to the place where you can check heart rates, but at the same time, it reflects the relationship with the 'pulse': the rate at which the heart is beating.
In essence, the pulse is an extension of an artery. Its swelling is the result of a repetitive ‘shock wave’. Every time the heart contracts, it pumps a certain amount of blood against the inner artery walls as it makes its way around the body. As it pumps, it leaves a wave of pressure or pulsation in the artery, which disappears again when the heart rests between contractions.
How do I take my pulse?
There are two convenient places on the body for checking a pulse. The wrist is well known of course, but in practice it is usually simpler to use the carotid artery in the neck. To do this, place the slightly bent index and middle finger next to each other just below the jaw joint where it meets the neck. Don’t press, but gently feel for pulsation using the flat of your fingers.
How long you count does not really matter. Just 15 counts however, is too short, because this can easily cause reading errors. Just one single missed beat during 15 seconds, can already result in a margin of error multiplied by a factor of four. The best way is to count for 30 seconds and then multiply by 2. This will give you the number of heart beats per minute.
Choose the right time to take your pulse. The best and most reliable time is early in the morning, even before you get out of bed. You can keep a list by measuring every day. With time, you will learn how to interpret the differences per day fairly well. A normal pulse rate is between about 60 and 80 beats per minute. This rate speed reflects a normal health status.
According to the books, strictly speaking a pulse rate of up to 100 is normal, but in reality, this is far too high. The closer to 60, the better.