Taking a Pulse (Heart Rate)

Your pulse is the rate at which your heart beats. As your heart pumps blood through your body, you can feel a pulsing in some of the blood vessels close to the skin's surface.

The usual resting pulse for an adult is 60 to 100 beats per minute. Certain illnesses can cause your pulse to change, so it is helpful to know what your resting pulse is when you are well. To find your resting pulse, count your pulse after you have been sitting or resting quietly for at least 5 minutes.

Checking your pulse on the wrist

Picture of taking a pulse (heart rate) on the wrist
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You can easily check your pulse on the inside of your wrist, below your thumb.

  • Gently place 2 fingers of your other hand on this artery.
  • Do not use your thumb, because it has its own pulse that you may feel.
  • Count the beats for 30 seconds, and then double the result to get the number of beats per minute.

Checking your pulse in the carotid artery

Picture of the pulse point at the neck
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You can also check your pulse in the carotid artery. This is located in your neck, on either side of your windpipe. Be careful when checking your pulse in this location, especially if you are older than 65. If you press too hard, you may become lightheaded and fall.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Thomas M. Bailey, MD - Family Medicine
Last Revised March 26, 2012

Last Revised: March 26, 2012

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Thomas M. Bailey, MD - Family Medicine

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