The pulse rate is the number of times a person's heart beats in one minute.
The pulse rate can give important information about overall health and fitness. It is measured as part of a physical exam. Whenever a person has an appointment with a healthcare provider, the pulse rate is measured routinely.
This test can be performed by anyone. It is done by putting pressure on any artery in which pulsations can be felt. An artery on the thumb side of the wrist is commonly used to feel the pulse. Pulses can also be felt behind the knee, on top of the foot, or in the neck, temple, or groin. The number of pulsations that occur in one minute is the pulse rate. This is usually equal to the heart rate, unless the heart has certain rare electrical or mechanical problems.
No preparation is needed for this test. It can be performed at any time.
Normal values for the pulse rate depend on the person's age and fitness level. The pulse should be regular, meaning that the time between pulsations is the same. Some examples of normal pulse rates, in beats per minute (bpm)are:
Abnormal pulse rates can be:
A pulse can be abnormally slow or fast, and irregular at the same time.
Slow pulse rates:
Fast pulse rates:
An irregular pulse often indicates an electrical problem in the heart. This may be normal for a given person or may indicate a life-threatening problem. For example, irregular pulse rates can be due to a heart attack or enlargement of the heart.
Author:Adam Brochert, MD
Editor:Duff, Ellen, BA
Reviewer:Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 1998, Fauci et al.
Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 1996, Behrman et al.