The pulse is the heart rate, or the number of times the heart beats in one minute. Pulse rates vary from person to person, but in general the pulse is lower at rest and increases with exertion.
The pulse is counted to:
- See how well the heart is working. In an emergency situation, the pulse rate can help find out if the heart is pumping enough blood.
- Help find the cause of symptoms, such as an irregular or rapid heartbeat (palpitations), dizziness, fainting, chest pain, or shortness of breath.
- Check for blood flow after an injury or when a blood vessel may be blocked.
- Check on medicines or diseases that cause a slow heart rate.
- Check general health and fitness level.
Many conditions can change the pulse rate.
A fast pulse may be caused by:
- Activity or exercise.
- Some medicines, such as decongestants and those used to treat asthma.
- An overactive thyroid gland
- Some types of heart disease
- Stimulants such as caffeine, amphetamines, diet pills and cigarettes
A Slow pulse may be caused by:
- Some types of heart disease and medicine to treat heart disease
- High levels of fitness
- An underactive thyroid gland
A weak pulse may be caused by:
- A blood clot in the arm or leg.
- Diseases of the blood vessels
- Heart disease and heart failure
In other words, the pulse is an important measure of health and well-being. How hard the heart has to work during various activities can tell a lot about a person’s overall physical condition.