Every visit to the doctor, whether for a wellness checkup or an illness, begins with a nurse taking certain vital signs. You are probably familiar with the routine. In addition to obtaining your height and weight, the nurse will document your pulse rate, blood pressure, temperature, and respiratory rate. These measurements make up your vital signs and give a very basic view of your overall health. While you are familiar with having these measurements taken, you may not have a clear understanding of normal results and the picture they present of your health.
10. Normal Resting Heart Rate
Your pulse rate tells you how many times your heart beats per minute. To take your pulse and measure your heart rate, you can place your fingers on the pulse point of your wrist. Then, for 10 seconds, count the number of times you feel the blood vessels pulsing against your fingertips. Multiply this number by six to get the number of beats per minute (bpm). A normal resting heart rate falls in the range of 60 to 100 bpm. When a nurse takes your pulse, he may also make note of any irregularities in the rhythm of your pulse.
Tachycardia refers to an irregular heartbeat that is faster than 100 bpm while at rest. When your heart beats too fast, it may not be able to adequately provide your organs and tissues with oxygenated blood. This can lead to lightheadedness, dizziness, chest pain, a racing feeling in the chest, and difficulty breathing. According to the Mayo Clinic, conditions that may trigger tachycardia include heart disease, anemia, smoking, fever, electrolyte imbalances, and changes in blood pressure. Treatments for tachycardia include medications, ablation, and implantation of either a pacemaker or a cardioverter.
Bradycardia refers to a heart rate that is too slow. In general, a heart rate of less than 60 bpm is considered low. Exceptions to this rule are athletes who have a low resting heart rate due to the heart-strengthening effects of exercise. According to the American Heart Association, conditions that may contribute to bradycardia include heart disease, thyroid disorders, and medication side effects. Symptoms of bradycardia may include drowsiness, dizziness, confusion, fainting, and shortness of breath. Treatment depends on the cause of the arrhythmia. A pacemaker may help restore the heart to a normal rhythm.
7. Blood Pressure
Your blood pressure values consist of two pressure readings. The first number, the systolic blood pressure, refers to the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats. Meanwhile, the second number, the diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your blood vessels between beats. A normal blood pressure reading is less than 120/80 mmHg. Blood pressure that measures between 120/80 mmHg and 139/89 mmHg is at risk for developing high blood pressure. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, measures at more than 140/90 mmHg.
Blood pressure measurements between 120/80 mmHg and 139/89 mmHg indicate a risk for developing high blood pressure. Individuals who are at risk for hypertension may be able to prevent developing full-blown hypertension by making lifestyle changes to protect their hearts and lower their blood pressure. Maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in regular exercise, consuming a healthy diet, and giving up smoking are excellent ways to reduce your risk of hypertension. According to the CDC, about 60% of individuals with diabetes also have high blood pressure. Maintaining good diabetic control can help reduce the risk of hypertension.
A person with hypertension or high blood pressure has blood pressure readings of more than 140/90 mmHg. Many individuals have no symptoms associated with high blood pressure. Therefore, it is critical to see your doctor regularly to check your blood pressure. Risk factors for high blood pressure include obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, sleep apnea, excessive alcohol use, chronic kidney disease, and family history. Uncontrolled hypertension can lead to conditions such as heart attack, stroke, aneurysm, organ failure, and dementia.
Low blood pressure, or hypotension, is blood pressure lower than 90/60 mmHg. Postural hypotension may occur when a person goes quickly from sitting to standing, causing a drop in blood pressure. This drop in blood pressure can cause dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting. Sudden drops in blood pressure due to sepsis, excessive bleeding, fever, or dehydration can be life-threatening. In some cases, hypotension may be caused by blood pressure medications, antidepressants, seizure medications, or anti-anxiety drugs.
3. Caring for Your Heart
Taking care of your heart helps to ensure it will take care of you. Consuming a wholesome diet of whole grains, leafy grains, lean protein, fiber, and fresh fruits provides your heart with the nutrients required for strong performance. Aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging, dancing, swimming, and cycling, strengthens your heart and help keep off excess weight. Employing techniques to decrease stress in your life can be beneficial as well. Make time to relax, unwind, enjoy calming music, and engage with friends and family to lessen stress and benefit your heart.
2. Respiratory Rate
Your respiratory rate is the number of breaths you take per minute. Most adults have a respiratory rate of between 12 and 20 breaths each minute. An increased respiratory rate may indicate stress, anxiety, or drug overdose. Conditions that affect the lungs, such as asthma, pneumonia, and lung disease, may also cause an increased respiratory rate. Furthermore, congestive heart failure can cause fluid to back up into the lungs, causing difficulty breathing and an increased respiratory rate.
1. Body Temperature
A temperature of greater than 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit may indicate your body is fighting off an infection. Typically, a temperature of more than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit indicates a fever. A temperature of greater than 103 degrees Fahrenheit is cause for concern. Meanwhile, a temperature of less than 95 degrees Fahrenheit indicates hypothermia. You are likely familiar with the risks of hypothermia from being outdoors in frigid temperatures or from falling into an icy pond. However, WebMD reports that elderly individuals and infants may be susceptible to hypothermia indoors as well.