STARS Patient Information
Know Your Pulse
Knowing your pulse is one of the easiest ways to detect a cardiac arrhythmia, caused by a heartbeat that is too fast, too slow or irregular.
Facts - Why should you Know Your Pulse?
- One way to detect an arrhythmia is to feel your own pulse and assess whether it is regular or irregular.
- Another important aspect of assessment of your pulse is the heart rate. A heart rate that is consistently above 100 beats per minute at rest may indicate either a normal or abnormal rhythm but requires further evaluation by your doctor. A resting heart rate consistently less than 50 beats per minute at rest may be normal or abnormal. Some athletes and other individuals may have a low resting heart rate in this range. Some medications may lead to a low heart rate in this range. However, if you have a heart rate below 50 beats per minute and have symptoms of lightheadedness or feel faint then this should be evaluated by your doctor immediately.
- Most heart rhythm problems are not life threatening. However, some rhythm disturbances lead to a heart racing sensation (palpitations) and may, in rare instances, lead to lightheadedness or loss of consciousness.
- Certain relatively rare rhythm disturbances from the heart’s lower chambers are potentially life-threatening. So, if you have persistent symptoms of palpitations, lightheadedness or any loss of consciousness then you should be evaluated by your doctor as soon as possible.
- Sometimes it is difficult for doctors to tell the difference between loss of consciousness related to seizures and loss of consciousness related to heart rhythm problems. This is one of the main reasons why any type of loss of consciousness requires careful evaluation by your doctor.
The Know Your Pulse Factsheet is availble to download here.