Heart rate: The number of heart beats per unit time, usually per minute. The heart rate is based on the number of contractions of the ventricles (the lower chambers of the heart). The heart rate may be too fast (tachycardia) or too slow (bradycardia). The pulse is bulge of an artery from the wave of blood coursing through the blood vessel as a result of the heart beat. The pulse is often taken at the wrist to estimate the heart rate.