26 August 2016
In a hospital setting or even in Hollywood movies, you probably must have seen medical personnel use their fingers to trace the veins in the wrist or the neck of a patient while you wonder what they are doing – maybe they are feeling the body temperature in a professional way.
What they are simply doing is trying to check for what is called a pulse.
The pulse is simply the expansion of the arteries caused by the increases in blood pressure pushing against the elastic walls of the arteries each time the heart beats.
What medical personnel are trying to achieve by feeling the pulse of an individual is to vaguely get an idea of the state of the heart even before further evaluation.
These arterial expansions come and go with the same regularity against which the heart pumps the blood and then refills.
The pulsations are felt at certain points on the body where larger arteries run closer to the skin and make pulses easy to feel.
How to check your pulse
Here are the simple steps needed to take a pulse on the wrist:
- Turn one of your hands over so it is palm-side up
- Use your other hand to place two fingertips gently in the groove on the forearm, down from the fold of the wrist and about an inch along from the base of your thumb.
- When you have the position right, you should feel the pulsation of your heart beat.
The pulse can also be felt on the neck, by placing two fingers in the same way, gently pressing into the soft groove on either side of the windpipe (trachea).
This is the pulse running through one of the carotid arteries – the main arteries that run up the neck to the head from the heart.
How to record a pulse reading
Once you have been able to find a pulse using the steps above, hold still and:
- Use a watch with your second hand, or look at a clock nearby
- Over the course of a minute, count the number of beats felt
- The number of pulses over a minute is the standard heart rate measurement, which can also be reached by doubling the number of pulses felt over a half minute.
- In a normal state of health, the normal heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute.
You don’t have to be a trained medical personnel to feel your pulse or that of your children.
Once you check your pulse or that of your children and there is an irregularity in the rate, get to the hospital as soon as you can.
Author: Dotun Obatuyi
My name is Dotun Obatuyi (Dotunoba), I hail from Osun state, a public health scientist (monitoring and evaluation specialist), my keen interests are researching, critiquing and writing feature articles on health, science and technology as well as issues around the globe.