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What Is Heart Rate?


NuMetrex sports bra with heart sensing fabric.

Heart rate is measured by finding the pulse of the body. This pulse rate can be measured at any point on the body where an artery's pulsation is transmitted to the surface often as it is compressed against an underlying structure like bone by pressuring it with the index and middle finger. The thumb should not be used for measuring another person's heart rate, as its strong pulse may interfere with discriminating the site of pulsation. Some commonly palpated sites include:

  1. The ventral aspect of the wrist on the side of the thumb (radial artery)
  2. The ulnar artery
  3. The neck (carotid artery)
  4. The inside of the elbow, or under the biceps muscle (brachial artery)
  5. The groin (femoral artery)
  6. Behind the medial malleolus on the feet (posterior tibial artery)
  7. Middle of dorsum of the foot (dorsalis pedis).
  8. Behind the knee (popliteal artery)
  9. Over the abdomen (abdominal aorta)
  10. The chest (aorta), which can be felt with one's hand or fingers. However, it is possible to auscultate the heart using a stethoscope.
  11. The temple
  12. The lateral edge of the mandible

A more precise method of determining pulse involves the use of an electrocardiograph, or ECG (also abbreviated EKG). Continuous electrocardiograph monitoring of the heart is routinely done in many clinical settings, especially in critical care medicine. Commercial heart rate monitors are also available, consisting of a chest strap with electrodes. The signal is transmitted to a wrist receiver for display. Heart rate monitors allow accurate measurements to be taken continuously and can be used during exercise when manual measurement would be difficult or impossible (such as when the hands are being used).

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