Is your pulse rate normal?
Whether it’s regular or irregular, slow or fast, your pulse rate can help identify whether you have any potential cardiac problems. It’s also a great tool to see how fit you are.
What is a healthy pulse rate?
Dr Sarah Jarvis explains that the average pulse rate is around 70 beats per minute, but anything between 60 to 80 is still normal, as long as it’s regular.
With your resting heart rate, it can be anything from 40 to 100 bpm and varies depending on how fit you are—fitter people usually have a slower resting heart rate.
Your heart rate can also increase with age or by exercise, anxiety, alcohol, caffeine and taking recreational drugs.
Certain medications, such as beta-blockers, can also cause your heart rate to slow down.
What conditions can cause your pulse rate to change?
Various conditions can cause changes to your pulse rate. For example, if you suffer from abnormal heart rhythm conditions such as supraventricular tachycardia, or SVT, your heart rate can beat up to 150 beats per minute or more, fast but regular.
If you suffer from atrial fibrillation, the most common abnormal heart rhythm condition, your heart beat may be completely irregular with no pattern at all.
Occasionally if you’re unwell, especially with a fever, your pulse rate can be temporarily raised. This might also happen if you are dehydrated, anaemic or losing blood.
People in shock from blood loss tend to have a very, rapid weak pulse.
Should you be regularly taking your pulse?
Dr Sarah Jarvis advises that older people should check their pulse rate regularly to ensure they don’t have an irregular heart rhythm, especially if you are aged over 65.
If you do notice an irregular heart rhythm, you should always visit your GP, even if you feel well.
People with a history of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, stroke or heart failure, should also regularly check their pulse as they are at a higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation.
Younger people don’t necessarily need to check their rate on a regular basis if they feel well, however if their heart rate is over 100 bpm when resting then they should see a doctor.
How to measure your pulse?
The good thing is that your pulse rate can easily be measured and taken at home.
- Find a quiet place and equip yourself with a digital stopwatch, or a watch with a second hand.
- Place two fingers from one hand on the artery on the inside of your wrist, just below your thumb.
- Don’t use your thumb, as it has its own pulse which you may feel.
- Count your pulse for 30 seconds.
- Double the number to get your pulse rate result.
How to regulate your pulse rate
If you’re keen to help regulate your pulse rate and improve your health in general, then simple changes and lifestyle improvements can make a difference.
Here’s some tips from Dr Sarah Jarvis:
- Reduce your alcohol consumption
- Keep your daily caffeine intake limited to 450mg per day
- Take regular exercise
- Stop smoking
- Avoid using recreational drugs
- Reduce stress / anxiety