Health Education: Vital Signs
Vital signs are measurements of the body’s most basic functions. The four main vital signs routinely monitored by medical professionals and healthcare providers include:
- Body temperature
- Pulse rate
- Respiration rate
- Blood pressure
The normal body temperature of a person varies depending on gender, recent activity, food consumption, time of day, and in women, the stage of menstrual cycle. According to the American Medical Association, normal body temperature can range from 97.8 F. to 99 F. A person’s temperature can be taken in any of the following ways:
- By ear
The respiration rate is the number of breaths a person takes in one minute. The rate is usually taken when the person is at rest and simply involves counting the number of breaths for 1 minute. Respiration rates may increase with fever or illness.
Normal respiration rates for an adult range from 15 to 20 breaths per minute.
The pulse rate is measurement of the heart rate, or the number of times the heart beats in one minute. Taking the pulse not only measures the heart rate but also indicates the heart rhythm and strength of the pulse.
The normal pulse for healthy adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute. The pulse rate will increase with exercise, illness, injury and emotions. Girls ages 12 and older tend to have a faster heart rate than do boys and men. Athletes, such as runners, who practice cardiovascular conditioning, may have heart rates in the 40’s and experience no problems.
Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the artery walls. Each time the heart beats it pumps blood into the arteries. Two numbers are recorded when measuring blood pressure. The higher number orsystolic pressure, refers to the pressure inside the artery when the heart contracts and pumps blood through the artery. The lower number or diastolic pressure refers to the pressure inside the artery when the heart is relaxing and filling with blood.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, directly increases the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, high blood pressure for adults is defined asgreater than 120/80.
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