Handy Heart Tips

  1. Manually check your heart rate (pulse).

    Put the tips of your first two fingers on your wrist, just below your thumb (palm up).

    If you are feeling your pulse using your right hand, place your fingers below your thumb (palm up), on the side of your wrist near your thumb.

    Press softly and you should begin to feel a pulsing sensation.

    One pulse is equivalent to a heartbeat.

    Take a clock and count the number of times your heart beats in 20 seconds.

    Multiply that number by 3 – and that will be your heart rate.

  2. Check your pulse on your neck.

    Another way to manually check your heart rate is to place your first two fingers on the side of your lower neck, on either side of your trachea.

    You should begin to feel a pulse. It is often easier to feel your pulse in your neck, rather than in your wrist.

    Again, count the number of beats in 20 seconds, multiply that number by 3 – and that will be your heart rate.

  3. Do NOT use your thumb to determine your heart rate.

    This is because you have a small artery that runs in your thumb. That may cause you to double count your pulse.

  4. Understand a normal heart rate.

    Having a normal heart rate indicates good cardiovascular health, but some variation is perfectly natural.

    Normal: Pulse rate of 60-100 beats per minute while resting.

    Bradycardia: A pulse rate below 60 beats per minute while resting.

    Causes of bradycardia include certain medications that slow down the heart rate (e.g. beta-blockers, sedatives), heart failure. Athletes often have a heart rate below 60 at rest because their heart is in good shape, so each beat pumps more blood through their body (as opposed to having to beat more often and pump less blood with each beat).

    Tachycardia: A pulse rate higher than 100 while resting.

    Causes of tachycardia include anxiety, illness (running a fever may elevate your heart rate), some medications that can elevate your heart rate (such as thyroid hormone supplements), caffeine intake, and being out of shape and overweight.

  5. Calculate your maximum heart rate.

    Your maximum heart rate is the highest number of beats per minute that your heart can beat. The following formula will allow you to calculate your heart rate: 220 – (your age in years) = Maximum Heart rate.

  6. Find your target heart rate.

    Your target heart rate is the range in which you should keep your pulse while exercising, to gain the greatest health benefits.

    For younger persons, it is generally 60-80% of your maximum heart rate.

    For older, sedentary persons, your target heart rate may be 40-50% of their maximum heart rate.

    Your doctor or an exercise trainer can help determine the ideal target heart rate for you.

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