How to calcultate heart rate pulse? Frequently Asked Questions

It’s important to know your heart rate for a number of health-related reasons, making sure you can measure it accurately makes perfect sense.

We’ve outlined the basic steps in measuring your heart rate below:

Using your index and forefinger, you need to find your radial artery, which is between the tendon and the bone just at your wrist. Your palms should be facing upwards and you’ll find the artery about an inch below your wrist. Make sure your index and forefinger are on the same side as your thumb as you do this.

You should be feeling soft tissue. If you can’t ‘hear’ your pulse immediately, it might be a good idea to press a little harder. If that doesn’t work, move the two fingers around a little bit until you start to feel the pulse.

One you have it, count how many beats the pulse gives in 15 seconds. Then simply multiply this by 4 to get your pulse beats per minute (yes, like in music!). You can also use our Heart Rate Calculator, especially if you want to know your personal target heart rate.

Try the Jaw

You can also try for your pulse at the jaw. For some people this is even easier to manage than using the wrist. If you take the index and middle finger again and place them just to the left of your windpipe, you should be able to find your pulse quite quickly. The two fingers should be resting on the soft part, or fleshy part just beneath the jaw.

Then, simply use the same method as you would with your wrist, counting the beats in 15 seconds and then multiplying that number by 4.

Some misconceptions about heart rate

Many people misunderstand the facts about heart rate. Below, we outline the key misconceptions.

  • Contrary to popular belief, if you have an erratic heartbeat, it doesn't automatically mean that you are having, or are about to have, a heart attack. An erratic heartbeat could be due to a number of factors, and may well be nothing to worry about.
  • Another belief that isn't justified concerns the speed of the heartbeat. People often think that a fast pulse means that you are stressed. It may mean that you are, but it is not always the case. Some medical conditions can cause the heart to beat faster, and you might not be stressed at all.
  • The maximum heart rate is not a ‘limit’ that will cause you to die if you pass it. Instead, you need to know your maximum heart rate to help with health monitoring as well as exercise. For example, doctors recommend that the optimum exercise activity you should follow is one that has you exercising at 60-80% of the maximum heart rate. This gives you the best benefits for your heart. To calculate the maximum heart rate simply subtract your age from 220.

Your heart rate is easy to calculate. If you have any concerns about your heart rate it is always best to seek the advice of your doctor. It’s important to remember that everyone is different and heart rate is one of the key medical ‘differences’ people have. Compared to someone else, you may have a heart rate that seems ‘not normal’. If you’re concerned, see a doctor.