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How to measure heart rate: there are three quick ways to measure your heart rate, and three types of heart rate activity to measure that give an accurate estimate of your average heart rate.

Heart rate means 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.

Where to Measure Your Heart Rate

There are 3 quick places on your body 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 to find.

Heart Rate Calculation

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

  1. Count the beats for 6 seconds then multiply that number by 10. 

  2. Count your heart beats for 10 seconds then multiply by 6.

  3. Count your pulse beats for 30 seconds and multiply by 2.

Remember, heart rate is measured in beats per minute. 

How to Measure your Average Heart Rate

On average, a heart rate of 70 beats per minute is what we would expect if you could measure everyone's pulse rate across the world at the same time and divided that number by the population of our world. Of course, there is a wide scatter, or deviation from this artificial norm just like one shoe size doesn't fit everyone. There is an average for everyone, and there's one for you.

In high energy states like exercise or fear, your heart rate speeds up as 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 - this is where you spend most of your time at rest like while reading this article - that's called your resting heart rate. In low energy states like sleep, your heart rate slows 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 Measurements by Age

  • Average adult heart rate: 60-100

  • Athlete's heart rate: 40-60

  • Children: 70-130

  • Infants: 80-120

  • Newborns: 70-190

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