How To Take A Pulse
What is a pulse?
A pulse is the beat you can feel against the wall of an artery when your heart beats. The pulse is the same as the heart rate. The normal adult pulse is 60 to 100 beats a minute. Arteries are the vessels that carry blood from the heart to different parts of your body. It is easier to feel the pulse in arteries that come close to the skin. There are several arteries in your body that can be used to feel a pulse. Following are the most common arteries for counting your pulse.
- Radial . This artery is located on the inside of the wrist near the side of your thumb.
- Carotid . This artery is found on the neck between the wind pipe and neck muscle, and just under the lower jaw bone.
Why do you need to take your pulse?
Your caregiver may want you to check your pulse because of an illness, such as heart disease. Some medicines you may be taking can change your pulse rate.
How to take a radial pulse:
The radial artery is found close to the inside part of your wrist near your thumb. You will need a watch with a second hand to count your pulse. The following steps may help you take your radial pulse.
- Bend your elbow with your arm at your side. The palm of your hand should be up.
- Using your middle (long) and index (pointer) fingers, gently feel for the radial artery inside your wrist. You will feel the radial pulse beating when you find it. Do not use your thumb to take the pulse because it has a pulse of its own.
- Count your radial pulse for a full minute (60 seconds). Notice if your pulse has a strong or weak beat.
- Write down your pulse rate, the date, time, and what wrist (right or left) was used to take the pulse. Also write down anything you notice about your pulse, such as it being weak, strong, or missing beats.
- The radial artery is an easy artery to use when checking your heart rate during or after exercise.
How to take a carotid pulse:
Your carotid arteries are found on the outer part of the right and left side of your neck. You will need a watch with a second hand to count your carotid pulse. The following steps may help you take your carotid pulse.
- Using your middle (long) and index (pointer) fingers, gently feel the carotid artery on either side of your neck. Do not press down on both arteries at the same time. You will feel the carotid pulse beating when you find it. Do not use your thumb to take the pulse because it has a pulse of its own.
- Count your carotid pulse for a full minute (60 seconds).
- Write down your pulse rate and the date, and time it was taken. Notice if your pulse has a strong or weak beat. Also write down anything you notice about your pulse, such as it being weak, strong, or missing beats.
- The carotid artery is an easy artery to use when checking your heart rate during or after exercise.
How to take an apical pulse:
The apical pulse is your heart rate when counted with a stethoscope placed over your heart. A watch with a second hand will be needed to take your apical pulse. The following steps may help you take your apical pulse.
- You should sit up or lie down.
- Put the tips of the stethoscope into your ears.
- Place the diaphragm (disk part) of the stethoscope over your heart. Your heart is found in the middle of your chest and toward the left side.
- Count the beats for a full minute (60 seconds) when you hear your heartbeat. Notice if your heartbeat sounds strong, weak, or missing beats.
- Write down your apical pulse rate and the date and time that your pulse was taken. Also write down if you feel your heartbeat is not beating as it usually does.
You or someone else will be taught how to take your pulse rate. Caregivers will tell you how often your pulse should be taken. You may need to take your pulse right before taking a medicine. It is important to write down the pulse rate each time it is taken. You will be told when to call your caregiver about your pulse rate.
Do's and Don'ts:
Keep a written list of what medicines you take and when and why you take them. Ask your caregiver for information about your medicine. Do not take any medicines, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, herbs, or food supplements without first talking to caregivers. Always take your medicine as directed by caregivers. If you are taking medicine that makes you drowsy, do not drive or use heavy equipment.
How many times a day should you take your pulse rate?
Your caregiver will tell you how many times and how you should take your pulse rate. Carefully follow your caregiver's instructions
- Eat healthy foods from all of the 5 food groups: fruits, vegetables, breads, dairy products, meat and fish. Eating healthy foods may help you feel better and have more energy. It may also help you heal faster. . Ask your caregiver if you need to be on a special diet.
- Drink 6 to 8 (soda pop can size) glasses of liquid each day. Or, follow your caregiver's advice if you must limit the amount of liquid you drink. Good liquids to drink are water, juices, and milk. Limit the amount of caffeine you drink, such as coffee, tea, and soda.
- Talk to your caregiver before you start exercising. Together you can plan the best exercise program for you. It is best to start slowly and do more as you get stronger. Exercising makes the heart stronger, lowers blood pressure, and keeps you healthy.
- It is never too late to quit smoking if you smoke. Smoking harms the heart, lungs, and the blood. You are more likely to have a heart attack, lung disease, and cancer if you smoke. You will help yourself and those around you by not smoking. Ask your caregiver for the CareNotes™ handout on how to stop smoking if you are having trouble quitting.
- Stress may slow healing and cause illness later. Since it is hard to avoid stress, learn to control it. Learn new ways to relax (deep breathing, relaxing muscles, meditation, or biofeedback). Talk to your caregiver about things that upset you.
Call your caregiver if:
- You have questions or concerns about your pulse or how to take your pulse.
- You have questions or concerns about your injury/illness or medicine.
Seek care immediately if:
- Your pulse rate is higher or lower than the numbers your caregiver has told you are good for you.
- You feel dizzy or faint (like you will pass out).
Care AgreementYou have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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