All You Need to Know About Vital Signs | TapGenes
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All You Need to Know About Vital Signs
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All You Need to Know About Vital Signs

If you’re like me, the term “vital signs” conjures up the image of a beeping EKG screen in a dark hospital room. So why would you want to think about this on a regular basis? Vital signs should be checked regularly to ensure your body is functioning properly, and can indicate serious medical conditions if not within normal range. Here are some helpful tips

What are my vital signs, and how do I measure them?

Blood pressure – Your blood pressure measures the pressure your blood makes against your arteries, and is expressed as a fraction (systolic/diastolic). Although you can buy an at-home blood pressure monitor, machines are readily available at grocery stores and pharmacies for free!

Pulse – Your pulse measures your heart rate, or the number of times your heart beats per minute. To take your pulse, place two fingers on your wrist and count the number of times your heart beats in 60 seconds.

Breathing rate – To measure your respiration rate, simply count the number of times you breathe in one minute, with each inhale/exhale set counting as one. This is typically done by a nurse while a patient is at rest, so don’t worry too much if your number is slightly outside the normal range (it’s weird to count the number of times you breathe, right?!)

Temperature – To measure your body temperature, you will need a digital thermometer. If you don’t own one, pick one up at the grocery store while you’re getting your blood pressure checked! Follow the instructions on the package, but in most cases, place the thermometer under your tongue until it beeps, then read your temperature.

Normal levels for adults:

Blood pressure: < 120/80 mm/Hg

Pulse: 60 to 100 beats per minute (although 50-70 is ideal)

Respiration rate: 12-18 breaths per minute

Temperature: 97.8 – 99 degrees Fahrenheit

Normal levels for toddlers:

Blood pressure: 95-105/53-66 mm/Hg

Pulse: 60-90 beats per minute (asleep)

Respiration rate: 24-40 breaths per minute

Temperature: 97.8 – 99 degrees Fahrenheit

Normal levels for school-aged children:

Blood pressure: 97-112/57-71 mm/Hg

Pulse: 60-90 beats per minute (asleep)

Respiration rate: 18-30 breaths per minute

Temperature: 97.8 – 99 degrees Fahrenheit


What if my vital levels aren’t normal?

Blood pressure – High blood pressure is called hypertension, and can cause heart failure, stroke, and other serious medical conditions in the long run. For more information about hypertension, read this article! Low blood pressure is much less common, and is only a concern if accompanied by other symptoms such as dizziness, fainting, fatigue, blurred vision, or nausea. If you are experiencing one of these symptoms, this may be a sign of an underlying medical problem including heart problems, endocrine problems, allergic reactions, or anemia.

Pulse – A low pulse rate is not a cause for concern, as it generally indicates a high level of physical activity and strong heart health. However, alert your doctor if you’re on heart medication (beta blockers, arrhythmia medication, etc) as this may be a sign to adjust dosage. High pulse rates, called Tachycardia, indicate unhealthy behaviors, such as constant stress or anxiety, drinking coffee or alcohol too frequently, and smoking.  

Respiration rate – Abnormal respiration rates are a sign of illness, such as dehydration or infection, or a sign of underlying medical conditions such as asthma, heart conditions, or lung conditions. Because respiration rates are difficult to accurately monitor on your own, you look for other symptoms of these illnesses if you notice abnormal breathing rather than relying on this indicator alone. 

Temperature – Of course, high or low body temperatures indicate illness. Coupled with other symptoms, such as coughing, abnormal pains, or dizziness, contact your doctor for diagnosis or seek medical attention if this is an immediate concern.

TapGenes Takeaway: Your vital signs are an important indicator of general health, and can signal underlying health conditions or illness. Vitals are easy to monitor at home, so check yours today!

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