Are pulse rate and blood pressure the same? Are they interrelated? Learn about the meaning of the terms, differences, relationship, causes, control, and more!
Blood pressure, pulse rate, and heart rate are the key terms used when talking about heart health. It is easy to feel confused and overwhelmed when these terminologies are thrown about. Are they the same? Are they different but interrelated? Do not worry, let’s tackle these terms one at a time and learn about the differences between them.
What is Pulse Rate and Heart Rate?
Pulse rate and heart rate determine the same number. Pulse rate or heart rate refers to the number of times your heart beats per minute or the speed at which the heart beats.
Normal pulse rate can vary from minute to minute and person to person, depending on age and general health. However, generally, a normal resting pulse rate should be between 60 to 100 beats per minute.
What is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the force exerted by the flowing blood on the walls of your arteries. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to other parts of the body. With each heartbeat, your heart pumps blood into your arteries.
An ideal blood pressure level is less than or equal to 120/80 mm Hg, where 120 mm Hg is the systolic blood pressure and 80 mm Hg is the diastolic blood pressure.
How are Pulse Rate and Blood Pressure Measured?
Pulse rate and blood pressure can be self-measured. However, it is advised to measure them when your heart is working in a normal state. This means that the body should be in a resting position and these numbers should not be measured after a stressful event or workout.
Measuring Pulse Rate
It is easy to measure the pulse rate using an activity tracker such as a fitness watch or other digital devices available in the market. If you want to measure it manually, the following steps need to be followed:
- Place and press the first two fingers of your hand on the inside of your wrist to find your pulse.
- Set a timer to a minute to help you measure the pulse rate in a minute.
- Count the number of pulse beats within the time period of one minute.
It can also be measured by placing the finger on the side of your neck, the inside of your elbow or the top of your foot.
The resting pulse rate or heart rate for different ages can be understood by the following numbers. Target heart rate during moderate intensity activity is about 50-70% of maximum heart rate, and during strenuous physical activity is about 70-85% of maximum heart rate.
|Target Heart Rate Zone, 50-85%
|Average Maximum Heart Rate, 100%
|100-170 beats per minute (bpm)
Source: American Heart Association
Measuring Blood Pressure
Checking your blood pressure is a little more elaborate process as compared to checking your pulse or heart rate, as it requires a blood pressure cuff. You can get it checked by your doctor at any nearby clinics or hospitals.
However, digital blood pressure monitors are now available in superstores and pharmacies that can help you self-check your blood pressure.
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Your blood pressure reading consists of 2 numbers:
- The systolic blood pressure or the top number indicates the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats.
- The diastolic blood pressure or the bottom number indicates the pressure in your blood vessels between the beats.
You should keep in mind the readings in this table to know if your BP is high, low, or normal.
|Blood Pressure Category
|Systolic (mm Hg)
|Diastolic (mm Hg)
|Less than 90
|Less than 60
|Less than 120
|Less than 80
|120 to 129
|Less than 80
|High Blood Pressure(Hypertension Stage 1)
|130 to 139
|80 to 89
|High Blood Pressure(Hypertension Stage 2)
|140 or higher
|90 or higher
|Higher than 180
|Higher than 120
Source: American Heart Association and the National Health Service
What is the Relation Between Pulse Rate and Blood Pressure?
Pulse rate and blood pressure are often mistaken to be interrelated. They frequently rise together, but it does not mean that this will happen in all conditions. For example, when you are performing a heavy physical activity, both your pulse rate and blood pressure will increase. Meanwhile, if you are sick, dehydrated or bleeding, your pulse rate will be high but your blood pressure will decrease.
Further, during exercise, as your heart beats faster, your healthy blood vessels will expand in size to allow increased blood flow, and this will help your blood pressure levels remain stable.
Thus, measuring your pulse or heart rate alone is not an indicator of high or low blood pressure. Your pulse rate or heart rate can increase with or without any change in your blood pressure.
What is the Difference Between Pulse Rate and Blood Pressure?
Pulse rate and blood pressure are two different numbers that determine cardiovascular health.
Blood pressure refers to the pressure exerted by your blood on the walls of your blood vessels, whereas the pulse rate or heart rate determines the number of times your heart beats in a minute.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a common clinical condition where your blood pressure is consistently too high.
Low blood pressure or hypotension is defined as the condition where your blood flows with very less pressure or force through your blood vessels.
A high (resting) pulse rate, medically known as tachycardia, is when your heart beats more than 100 times in a minute. It can vary among individuals based on several factors such as age and fitness levels.
A low resting pulse rate, medically referred to as bradycardia, is a condition where your beats beats less than 60 beats a minute. If the pulse rate is very slow and the heart cannot pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the body, it can become a serious condition.
This table provides a simple comparison between pulse/heart rate and blood pressure.
|Parameters of comparison
|The number of times your heart beats in one minute
|Pressure exerted by your blood on the walls of your blood vessels.
|Unit of measurement
|Beats per minute (bpm)
|Millimeters of mercury (mm Hg)
|120/80 mm Hg
|Numbers for measurement
|Consists of a single number
|Consists of two numbers: systolic and diastolic
What are the Factors That Affect Blood Pressure and Pulse Rate?
Factors That Affect Pulse Rate
Various factors can affect the pulse rate, including:
When the temperature and humidity in the air rises, your heart has to pump more blood, which results in an increased pulse rate.
If you are obese, you might see an increased resting pulse rate. It should not be above 100 bpm.
A sudden change in your body position might increase or decrease your pulse rate.
The state of your mind can affect your pulse rate. If you are stressed, anxious, or extremely happy or sad, you will observe an increase in your pulse rate.
Drugs such as beta blockers can lower the pulse or heart rate to a value below 60 bpm, which does not necessarily indicate a medical problem.
Factors That Affect Blood Pressure
Blood pressure may increase or decrease due to several factors which can include:
- Environmental factors such as climate, temperature, and time of the day
- Lifestyle habits such as low physical movement, poor diet, and tobacco and alcohol consumption
- Psychological stress and anxiety
- Medications taken by you for underlying diseases
What Causes Abnormal Pulse Rate and Blood Pressure?
Causes of Abnormal Pulse Rate
If your pulse rate or heart rate is resulting in an abnormal reading (above 100 bpm or below 60 bpm), it could be because of the following causes:
It is a common type of arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat) that causes a high and irregular resting heart rate.
It is a condition in which the heart beats slower than normal.
Insufficient thyroid hormone production can lead to a slower heart rate.
Certain medicines for colds and allergies can cause an abnormal heart rate..
Causes of Abnormal Blood Pressure
Causes of high blood pressure:
Primary hypertension can be caused by age, genetics, overweight, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, or chronic conditions such as diabetes or kidney disorders. Secondary hypertension is mostly caused by an underlying health condition or certain medications.
Causes of low blood pressure:
Low blood pressure (below 90/60 mm Hg) can happen due to medical conditions such as heart diseases, endocrine disorders, pregnancy, severe infection or septicemia, dehydration, blood loss, and malnutrition. Certain medications such as blood pressure medications and antidepressants can also cause low blood pressure.
When To See A Doctor?
See a doctor if:
- Your pulse or heart rate is lower than normal and/or you experience frequent episodes of dizziness or fainting.
- Your pulse or heart rate is higher than normal and/or you experience symptoms such as sensation of a pounding heartbeat or palpitations (flopping in the chest), shortness of breath and chest pain.
- Your blood pressure reading goes higher than 120/80 mm Hg with or without symptoms such as fatigue, chest pain, irregular heart beat, nosebleed and/or vision problems on more than one occasion.
- Your blood pressure reading goes lower than 90/60 mm Hg with or without symptoms such as dizziness, weakness, blurred vision and fainting on more than one occasion.
Don’t Have Time To Read?
- Pulse rate and heart rate determine the same number. It refers to the number of times your heart beats per minute or the speed at which the heart beats.
- Blood pressure is the force exerted by the flowing blood on the walls of your arteries.
- Pulse rate and blood pressure are two different numbers that determine cardiovascular health. They are not interrelated and they are not the same.
- You can measure your pulse rate using an activity tracker, other digital devices or manually using the first two fingers of your hand. You can get your blood pressure measured by your doctor or at home using digital blood pressure monitors.
- Various factors can affect the pulse rate including air temperature, obesity, body position, and emotional state. Blood pressure may vary due to environmental factors, age, sex, lifestyle habits, stress, and medications.
- Lifestyle changes such as exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, avoiding drinking and smoking, and managing your stress levels can help lower your pulse rate as well as your blood pressure levels.
- A low heart rate is usually treated with lifestyle changes, medication, treatment of the underlying cause, or a pacemaker. Low blood pressure is managed by treating the underlying health condition and with healthy lifestyle changes. Medication may also be needed to bring up your BP levels.
- If you experience frequent episodes of abnormal pulse rate (above 100 bpm or below 60 bpm) or abnormal blood pressure levels (above 120/80 mm Hg or below 90/60 mm Hg), or experience any related symptoms, you should consult a doctor immediately.
- Use the Phable Care App to consult India’s leading cardiologists, order medicines, book lab tests, integrate BP monitors and other devices to get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Also, check out our Hypertension Management Program which provides 360º care. Let’s treat low/high blood pressure problems together.
Friendly Asked Questions
Yes, pulse rate and heart rate determine the same number, which is the number of times your heart beats per minute.
Your heart rate/pulse rate and blood pressure are independent parameters that do not always affect each other or increase/decrease at the same time.
Sometimes, normal blood pressure levels and high heart rate can occur temporarily, like when you stand up suddenly. However, when the heart rate stays consistently high while blood pressure levels are normal, it may indicate that the heart’s electrical circuits are not functioning properly.
A high pulse rate with low blood pressure could occur when you stand up suddenly, after exercising, or due to an underlying condition such as pregnancy, nutrient deficiency, endocrine problems, or issues with heart health.
A pulse rate or heart rate above 100 bpm is considered abnormally high.