Not only the frequency, but the peculiar beat of the pulse is of vast importance to the correct diagnosis and proper treatment of disease.
In feeling the pulse, it should be done as gently as possible, as unnecessary parade may needlessly alarm the patient. Three fingers may be placed on the wrist directly back of the root of the thumb and the joint of the wrist, and just within the external bone of the arm. Slightly compressing the wrist with the fingers, and holding there for a moment you will be able to notice not only the frequency but the peculiar character of the pulse. Its rapidity may be easily measured by the second hand of a watch. Notice whether it beats with regularity, full and soft, whether by compression it may be rendered so indistinct as scarcely to be felt, whether it is strong and bounding, almost forcing the fingers from the arm, or hard, or small and wiry like the vibration of a string, or intermittent, striking a few beats and then apparently stopping for one beat, or the pulsations flowing into each other small, and almost imperceptible.
It will of course be necessary to understand the beat of the healthy pulse, and what its different varieties may indicate in disease.
Healthy pulse. The beat of the healthy pulse depends much upon age, sex, constitution and temperament
In the adult male, of medium size, it generally numbers from 70 to 75 beats in a minute.
In the adult female, it is not generally so strong and full as in the male, and usually numbers from 76 to 84 beats in the minute.
In a person between the ages of seven and fourteen it should number from 80 to 85 beats in the minute.
After teething and until the age of about seven there are generally from 85 to 96 beats in the minute.
In infancy, previous to teething, the pulse varies from 100 to 120 beats in the minute.
After man has reached the prime of life, and enters on the descending scale, which generally takes place in our climate between the ages of forty-five and sixty years, the pulse becomes still slower, numbering in the male about 70 and in the female 75 beats in the minute.
As the person advances to old age, the frequency of the pulse is still further diminished, until in the male there may be only from 55 to 60, and in the female from 65 to 70 beats in the minute.
I have given the usual standard of the pulse in health in the various stages of life, although cases are by no means rare, when in perfect health it may be much lower or higher than I have stated. If, however, the skin is moist and at a natural heat, this would be no indication of disease. The pulse also may vary before or after a meal, and be excited or depressed from exercise or influence of mental emotion. We should of course be cautious in attributing this temporary change to the influence of disease.