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Pressure wave in the arteries from contraction of the heart. It can be felt where arteries are near the skin's surface; it is usually read at the carotid artery in the neck or at the wrist. Its rate, strength, and rhythm and the contour of the wave provide valuable information but must be viewed in context (e.g., rapid pulse occurs with serious heart disease, simple fever, or vigorous exercise). The average adult pulse rate is 70–80 beats per minute; the rate decreases with age and is generally faster in women.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on pulse, visit Britannica.com.