Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: How do I check my heart rate?

Q. My doctor told me to check my heart rate when I feel certain symptoms, but I don't know how to do it. Can you explain?

A. Here is a good do-it-yourself method for checking your heart rate: Put two fingers on your wrist below the thumb. Move them around until you locate the pulse in the artery supplying the hand. When you can feel it, look at a clock or watch and count the number of beats in a 15-second period. Multiply by four and you have your heart rate. You can also check your heart rate by putting two fingers on the artery in your neck (the carotid artery). But press gently, because pressure on that artery can trigger a reflex that makes the heart slow down.

If you don't feel comfortable doing this, you can buy an inexpensive heart rate monitor at almost any pharmacy or sporting goods store.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »