Simple Ways to Check Your Heart Health
Measuring your Pulse
You can tell how fast your heart is beating (your heart rate) by feeling your pulse. Your heart rate is the amount of times your heart beats in one minute.
You will need a watch with a second hand.
Place your index and middle finger of your hand on the inner wrist of the other arm, just below the base of the thumb.
You should feel a tapping or pulsing against your fingers.
Count the number of taps you feel in 10 seconds.
Multiply that number by six to find out your heart rate for one minute:
Pulse in 10 seconds x 6 = ____ beats per minute (your heart rate)
When feeling your pulse, you can also tell if your heart rhythm is regular or not.
To determine the resting heart rate, you must have been resting for at least 10 minutes. Take the exercise heart rate while you are exercising.
Normal Heart Rates (resting):
- Newborns (0-30 days old): 70 - 190 beats per minute
- Infants (one - 11 months old): 80-120 beats per minute
- Children one to 10 years: 70 - 130 beats per minute
- Children over 10 and adults (including seniors): 60 - 100 beats per minute
- Well-trained athletes: 40 - 60 beats per minute
What does an abnormal pulse mean
Resting heart rates that are consistently high (tachycardia) may indicate a problem, and you should consult a health care provider. Discuss resting heart rates that are below the normal values (bradycardia) with your health care provider.
Also, discuss a pulse that is very firm (bounding pulse) and that lasts for more than a few minutes with your health care provider. An irregular pulse can also indicate a problem.
A pulse that is hard to feel may indicate blockages in the artery. These blockages are common in people with diabetes or atherosclerosis from high cholesterol. Your health care provider may order a test known as a Doppler study to evaluate this potentially serious situation.
Measuring Your Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is the force or pressure exerted in the arteries by the blood as it is pumped around the body by the heart.
It is recorded as two measurements:
- Systolic pressure: pressure in the arteries during the period of the heart's contraction (the higher number)
- Diastolic pressure: pressure in the arteries when the heart is relaxed, between heartbeats (the lower number)
A doctor or nurse can listen to your blood pressure by placing a stethoscope on your artery and pumping up a cuff placed around your arm. The blood pressure is read on a special meter called a sphygmomanometer.
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), which refers to how high the pressure in the arteries can raise a column of mercury in the sphygmomanometer.
Normal Blood Pressure Rates (resting):
- Normal blood pressure, for those not taking blood pressure medications, should be less than 120/80.
- Your blood pressure recording is not always the same. When you are exercising or excited, your blood pressure goes up. If you are at rest, your blood pressure will be lower. This is a normal response to changes in activity or emotion. Age, medications, and changes in position can also affect blood pressure.
- One high blood pressure reading does not mean you have high blood pressure. It is necessary to measure your blood pressure at different times, while resting, to find out if your typical blood pressure reading.
Many people have high blood pressure for years without knowing it. Most of the time, there are no symptoms, but when high blood pressure goes untreated, it damages arteries and vital organs throughout the body. That's why high blood pressure is often called the "silent killer."
Listen to your heart
Your doctor listens to your heart with the aid of a stethoscope. The opening and closing of your valves make sounds ("lub dub") known as the heart sounds. The doctor can evaluate your heart and valve function and hear your heart's rate and rhythm by listening to your heart sounds.