How To Measure Your Heart Beat

Have you ever wanted to learn how to measure your heart beat? There are several methods. Six methods are reviewed here.

  1. Manual check using carotid pulse. Of the manual methods, this is probably the most widely used outside of the doctor’s office. To measure your heartbeat using this method, you gently press two fingers on either side of the neck, just below your jaw (about halfway between earlobe and chin.) Most people can feel a good strong pulse this way. Be careful not to press too hard. Using a watch, you can either count your pulse for a full minute, or count for a shorter time and multiply to find beats per minute. For example, count for 15 seconds and multiply by four.
  2. Manual check using radial pulse. Another fairly common method, and the one you’ll probably recognize from a visit to the doctor’s office. To measure your heartbeat using this method, press your index and middle fingers together on the opposite wrist about a half inch from the joint. Some sources recommend that the fingers be held vertically for this method. The pulse is not usually as strong here as in the carotid, but once you find it, count or calculate your beats per minute.
  3. Manual check using the brachial artery. A less common manual method. To measure your heartbeat using this method, you move your fingers half way between your shoulder and your elbow, in the middle of your inner arm. Then press between your biceps and triceps, This method is tricky especially if you are muscular, as you have to press the artery against the bone. But if you manage to find the pulse there, count or calculate the beats per minute.   
  4. Manual check using the femoral artery. Another less common manual method. This pulse point is found near the crease between your groin and leg. From your pelvic bone, go about three inches in and four inches down. This method may be easier than some, but is probably not as practical at the gym. As before, count or calculate beats per minute.
  5. Manual check using the dorsalis pedis artery. Another less common method. To measure your heartbeat using this method, run your fingers up in the groove between the base of your big toe and second toe. Go about halfway to your ankle. Again, sources recommend the fingers be vertical for this method. A decent place to find a pulse, though obviously not an “on the run” method. Count or calculate beats per minute as before.
  6. Monitor method. The only method that doesn’t require you to count and/or calculate! There are quite a few different models of heart monitors out there now, from pedometers to those resembling the ECG/EEG you find in a hospital. A good monitor can give you a more accurate reading as the reading is “instant” and can show changes throughout a workout.

Any of these methods can be used to get a fairly accurate measure of your heart beat. It really depends on when and where you want to use them. There are obvious reasons that an EMT or physician would need to know them all, but for most of us, having one or two ways to check our heart beat can help us monitor our heart health and get the most out of a workout.  


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