Most everyone has been to a doctor's appointment for a general checkup, to receive a diagnosis or for a myriad of other medical reasons. While we all know that the first thing the nurse does after the patient steps off the scale is measure his or her blood pressure and pulse, but not everyone understands why.
The routine goes something like this: The nurse asks the patient to step onto the scale and weighs him or her. Next, she leads the patient into the exam room, where she closes the door and asks the patient to have a seat on the exam table. Once seated, the patient is asked to raise his/her sleeve so the nurse can take blood pressure and pulse. She wraps the blood pressure cuff, or aneroid sphygmomanometer on the patients arm and inflates the cuff, measuring the patient's blood pressure while applying a stethoscope to the inside of patient's elbow joint. While the blood pressure reading is taking place, the nurse counts the number of times the patient's heart beats during a 15 second period. This number is multiplied by four to determine the patient's heart rate, also known as pulse.
This is the manual method for measuring heart rate, however some clinicians, nurses, physical and occupational therapists use a device known as a pulse oximeter, which clamp on to the patient's finger and measure their pulse electronically.
Buy why do virtually all physicians run this test in assessing one's vital signs?
One of the reasons heart rate is a standard part of a medical checkup is that a person's pulse measures how many times your heart actually beats each minute. Heart rate can help determine the strength of an individual's heart, as well as identify any irregularities in the heart's rhythm. This information is then weighed against any medications the individual may be taking that may contribute to a slower-than-normal heart rate.
This information helps the doctor determine if one have a serious heart condition or other medical problem due to a weak pulse or irregular heart rate. The doctor can also check to see if the blood vessels feel normal or if they are abnormal in any way, as this could be a sign of further complications.
The pulse is in many ways like a barometer that can help determine if other types of symptoms like dizziness, chest pains, or trouble breathing are the result of a serious heart condition or disease, including but not limited to diabetes and high blood pressure (hypertension).
Pulse can be measured from different locations in the body. The most common of these being the wrist, the inside of the elbow joint and the tip of the index finger. The latter is the easiest to take and is the quickest way to measure a person's pulse.
Heart doctors, known as cardiologists sometimes want to hear the heart rate at the source. On a man this spot is left of the nipple. For a woman it is the same spot but underneath her breast. Spots on the body such as this are used to listen to the heart and helps in determining whether illnesses are present, as well as provide an idea of a person's health and degree of fitness in a more general sense.
The carotid artery is located in the neck. This is used to determine proper blood flow to the brain, and is very important is heart disease monitoring. The doctor can check to see if this blood flow is slower than normal.
If a patient suffers from blood clots in the groin area or legs, poor circulation in the feet, and/or swelling, the femeral artery is the place to check. This is because this main artery feeds blood to those particular areas. Doctors also check the pulse in this artery if a patient suffers from any broken bones in the leg, or foot areas.
Of course one's cardiologist, primary care doctor, nurse practitioner and/or family physician can't always be there to monitor an individual's every move. Thus, many doctors recommend that their patients check check heart rate and blood pressure regularly. This helps to ensure that any irregularities are observed in the early stages when conditions are more easily treatable. Doing this on a regular basis and keeping good records - especially for those with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease or other related problems, helps the doctor better determine the proper course of action in the event of any changes or in the onset of disease. It also helps the doctor to make diagnoses early on in the process if in fact the patient's cardiovascular health starts to deteriorate.