Doctor Secrets!


How to Measure Heart Rate

How to measure heart rate. There are three quick ways to measure your heart rate, and three types of heart rate activity to measure to get a good estimate of your average heart rate.

Heart rate is how fast your heart claps per minute. Each time your heart beats blood is ejected and pushed around your body's blood circuit bringing oxygen and nutrients to tissues and dragging spent carbon dioxide and by products away. You can feel this clap like a sea swell or bounce up and down in your blood vessels as the surge in pressure expands the arteries as it passes by.

How to Measure Your Heart Rate

There are 3 quick places to measure your heart rate:

  • Measure your heart rate from your carotid pulse. This artery is in your neck just to either side of your voice box. If you press on one side with a thumb or your index and middle finger you can easily feel your carotid pulse as it carries blood en route to your brain. Do not squeeze your carotids on both sides at the same time or you will reduce supply to your brain and may feel faint.
  • Measure your heart rate from your brachial artery. This is a another big artery on the inside of your elbow, palms up. It is easiest to feel using your thumb and grabbing the inside of your elbow with it. This is also where blood pressure is traditionally measured from.
  • Measure your heart rate from your radial artery. This pulse is located on the outside of your wrist, palms up. It is best felt grasping your wrist over the radial pulse with your index and middle finger of the other hand.
  • Heart rate can also be measured from taking a pulse from your temple, groin, back of the knee, behind the inner ankle or top side of your foot but these usually require more skill.
Where to Measure Heart Rate
measure heart rate from carotid pulse heart rate measure heart rate from brachial pulse measure heart rate from radial pulse

Heart Rate Calculators

There are 3 quick ways to measure your heart rate using a wrist watch, egg timer, or cell phone listed in ascending order of ease and descending order of accuracy:

  • Count the beats for 6 seconds then multiply that number by 10.
  • or Count your heart beats for 10 seconds then multiply by 6.
  • or Count your pulse beats for 30 seconds and multiply by 2.

Heart rate is measured in beats per minute.

How to Measure your Average Heart Rate

On average, 70 beats per minute is the heart rate we would expect to get if you measured everyones pulse rate in the world at the same time and divided that number by the number of people in the world. Of course, there is a wide scatter or deviation from this artificial norm just like shoe sizes. There is an average for everyone, and there's one for you.

In high energy states like exercise or fear your heart pump speeds up and your pulse gallops faster - that's called your exercise heart rate. Then there is your baseline rate - think of it like the "idle" rate in a car engine - were you spend most of your time idling at like while reading this article - that's called your resting heart rate. In low energy states like sleep, your heart rate slows down even more.

To get a good average heart rate for yourself we'll need to measure the variations: your heart rate right now (resting), your heart rate while working, and your heart rate while sleeping (get a friend or partner to measure it while you nap). Adding these three rates together and dividing by three will give you a reasonable estimate of your average heart rate.

Normal Heart Rate

  • Average adult heart rate: 60-100
  • Athelete's heart rate: 40-60
  • Children: 70-130
  • Infants: 80-120
  • Newborns: 70-190

Doctor Secrets! "Did you know that hummingbird's heart rate can reach as high as 1,250 beats per minute!"

MLA Citation for School Reports, Links, and Presentations:
Helpful Links:

  • What you should know about your heart rate
  • Heart rate measurement
  • The Karvonen Pulse Formula
  • Medline Heart Rate


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    Last Updated:
    April 22 2016
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