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How to measure your pulse?

The measurement is very simple: put the tips of the three fingers below the wrist, at the base of the thumb, press or move the fingers until you feel the pulse. The thumb cannot be used because it has its own pulse.

Use a watch with second hands and observe whether your beat is steady or irregular, whether your pulse is strong or weak. If you count the beats in 15 seconds, you should multiply it by 4 and you will get the number of heartbeats per minute.

What is heart rate

How many times have we seen in the movies how a character places his finger on the neck of a victim lying on the ground to check if he is still alive? Surely many, but perhaps what we do not know is what test they are carrying out to make sure if that person is dead or not. They are checking the carotid vein (just like it can be done in other parts of the body) if that person has a pulse and, therefore, if their heart is still beating.

Precisely checking the pulse and, therefore, the heart rate is something that we should do more or less regularly in normal life, since any deviation in these measurements can be one of the symptoms for suffering from different cardiovascular diseases or simply a dehydration or an infection.

Heart rate is the number of times that our heart contracts to pump blood throughout the body and that, thanks to this, can function properly. This figure is calculated by the number of beats per minute and is a clear indicator of how the heart is working.

It is very important to try to maintain your heart rate within a proper scale related to our age and physical condition. Thus, from the age of 20, it is normal to have a resting heart rate between 50 and 100 beats per minute, as recommended by the Spanish Heart Foundation. If it is below 50 we are considered to suffer bradycardia (unless we are well exercised athletes who, thanks to training, usually have a frequency between 40 and 60 beats per minute), while if it is above 100 we will suffer tachycardia. Both bradycardia and tachycardia, if you do not have a logical explanation for it and it is continuous, should be controlled by a specialist and, in many cases, take medication to keep them at bay.

Heart rate changes by multiple factors such as age, time of day, whether we have had some exciting drink or not, if we have just done sports, if we are taking certain medications… For this reason, we should not be frightened if we feel sporadic heart palpitations, or if, in a measurement, the figure is altered; what you need to do is repeat the measurement at another time of the day and, if you give several measurements with out-of-normal results, go to your doctor for a more detailed professional check-up.

Heart rate and sport

Controlling the rhythm of the heartbeat is important in our daily life. But if, in addition, we do sports, it is vital to optimize physical exercise and not put our health at risk. Know how to do it.

How to take a pulse or measure heart rate

There are many ways to take your pulse, and therefore calculate your heart rate. To measure it without the help of any electronic device, we will need to place the index and middle fingers (never the thumb) in a part of the body where an artery passes very close to the skin. Thus, it can be measured on the neck (carotid pulse), on the wrist (radial pulse), on the groin (femoral pulse), on the inside of the elbow (ulnar pulse), on the back of the knee (popliteal pulse) , on the temple (temporal pulse) or on the inside of the foot (medium pulse).

Once the pulse is located in one of these areas, pressing gently with your fingers must count how many beats we have in one minute (or in half a minute and multiply it by two).

Heart rate can also be measured with certain electronic devices, which are specially indicated to take it when you are doing physical activity. They are known as heart rate monitors, although their correct name is heart rate. These devices are made up of a strap that is placed at chest level and is connected to a watch that measures heart rate, although most models have added functions such as the stopwatch, the calorie consumed counter, etc.

How to calculate the maximum heart rate

You don’t have to be a professional athlete to take heart rate into account when doing any physical activity. And it is important to know what is the maximum heart rate that can be reached so as not to put our health at risk, as well as to know in what percentages we can move to maximize the benefits of sports.

To calculate the maximum heart rate there is a very simple formula in which you have to subtract the age you have from 220; for example, if a person is 40 years old, their maximum heart rate is 180. You should never put your heart into beats above this number.

Another way to calculate it is through the Karvonen formula, which also takes into account the resting heart rate to estimate how far we can go. To obtain it, the heart rate at rest must be subtracted from the maximum heart rate, and with this result we will apply the percentage correction. This formula, although much less known, is more appropriate, since it adds to the age variable that of physical condition, since more sedentary people tend to have a higher resting heart rate.