Your healthcare professional is interested in your vital signs: temperature, pulse, breathing rate and blood pressure. Your pulse gives an idea of your overall health and fitness. Shows how fast your heart is beating, the force of each heartbeat and if the rhythm is regular or sporadic. Because the heart is the pump that circulates blood throughout the body, and this carries the oxygen essential for life, this information is very important.
What is the pulse?
Your pulse is expanding every time you feel your heart beats and pushes blood through your arteries. The number of expansions that accounts in one minute is your pulse or heart rate, or the number of beats per minute.
How to measure your pulse?
Usually it is taken in the artery in the wrist because it is easier to feel. Gently put the tips of your index and middle fingers on the inside of your wrist along the bone that extends from the index and middle fingers of your other hand. Slide your thumb slowly in space that forms below. You should feel your pulse pushing the tips of your fingers. Consider these pulsations for a full minute. This is your pulse. If you can not find it, let someone else do it for you. Other places where you can find are the neck or on the inside of the elbow.
The normal pulse is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Heart rate, however, decreases with age, due to changes in the heart muscle as you age. Therefore, the heart beat of a person at rest is usually slower than that of a young adult. If you’re walking or exercising, your pulse will be faster than if you’re reading the newspaper. The emotional state, infection, medications and general health also affect your heart rate.
Historically, tachycardia occurs when the heart rate rises above 100 beats per minute, although there is a current pressure to decrease to a record of 80 to 89 beats for seniors. Cardiologists agree that this is an important indicator of heart disease, high blood pressure, clogged arteries and heart failure. It can also be caused by anemia, hyperthyroidism, fever or infection, or low blood sugar.
Bradycardia is when the heart rate drops below 60 beats per minute. It can be caused by good physical condition, as recorded in older athletes. Also by certain medications or such serious conditions as increased pressure in the brain, hypothyroidism, hypothermia or heart block.
An arrhythmia occurs when skipping beats. You can feel these pauses in your pulse. Or have a feeling that your heart skips beats. You may experience weakness, dizziness, nausea or shortness of breath. What really feel the contraction of the lower chambers of your heart, called the ventricles or the movement of the upper, called atria. This condition is usually caused by a fault in the electrical system of your heart that regulates your heartbeat. It can also be due to chemical imbalances, medications or other cardiac diseases.
If your pulse is concerned the professional who treats you, you probably refer the cardiologist. This has many tools available to make a diagnosis and prescribe treatment. Surely you will order an electrocardiogram and echocardiogram, a test of strength, cardiac catheterization, or you will wear a Holter monitor for 24 hours. You can prescribe medication to help your heart pump more efficiently, or can recommend a pacemaker.