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Medical Monitoring: 5 Vital Signs You Should Be Checking Regularly

by Jessica Hegg October 19, 2016


A vital sign is a specific measurement of a basic body function that is routinely monitored by your medical professional.  Everyone knows how important it is to get to the doctors, but not everyone realizes that their once or twice a year doctor’s visit is not always going to cut it.  To live a healthy lifestyle it is critical to check vitals and keep tabs on your health regularly.  Adult vital signs need to be measured far more often than at your doctor’s visit.  So what are vital signs that you should be monitoring? 

Your pulse rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, weight, and temperature are 5 vital signs we recommend tracking on a regular basis.

1. Monitoring Your Pulse Rate

Your pulse rate, or heart rate, is the number of times that your heart beats in one minute.  A normal healthy pulse rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute. It can be very useful to track your heart rate while monitoring your fitness level and it may even help to detect a developing heart problem. Pulse rates vary among different people. A more physically fit person is going to tend to have a good pulse rate that is slower, as their heart works more efficiently. Other factors such as medication, body size, temperature, emotions and body position can also manipulate your beats per minute. Knowing your regular pulse rate can be critical in gauging your heart’s health.  A consistently irregular heart rate that is too low or high can indicate that there may be an underlying problem.  Too high of a rate can mean your medication dosage is off or can even be a predictor of a heart attack.  Adversely, a slow pulse rate may lead to dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pains, and even passing out.

Luckily, we have the capability to monitor our pulse rates at our fingertips…literally.   Finger pulse oximeters are exceptionally handy tools that are easy to use and collect accurate heart rate measurements. This device is great for at-home use, and having it at your disposal allows you to check your heart rate at any given time. Being able to accurately record your heart rate will give you a head start on detecting something abnormal. In turn, you can relay your measurements to your doctor or seek help before experiencing any effects that may be detrimental to your health.

finger pulse oximeter by vive

2. Checking Blood Pressure

High blood pressure can be extremely dangerous; the worst part being it has no symptoms.  Your blood pressure must be measured to detect signs of hypertension.  Hypertension is another word for high blood pressure.  This puts extra strain on your arteries and your heart, and if prolonged will  strain and weaken your arteries.  This makes them thick and inflexible; making it more likely for them to become clogged.  Severe clogs are referred to as clots and may lead to strokes, heart attacks, kidney disease, or even dementia. Since this can go undetected, it is imperative to measure blood pressure consistently.

An at home blood pressure device is a convenient way to check your blood pressure on a regular basis. These are simple to use and you can bring it anywhere.  A routine blood pressure check has never been so easy.  Monitoring can help doctors or physicians know how treatments or prescribed medications are working; without the hassle of having to go visit the doctor. This is also a great way to rule out “white-coat hypertension”, or false high blood pressure readings due to anxiety at doctor’s office.

taking blood pressure reading

3. Tracking Your Weight

Keeping track of your weight allows you to monitor progress as well as alert you of any unhealthy weight gain or loss.  When on a journey to weight loss, consistent measurements are important to determine what progress is being made. Physically being able to track your progress can be great motivation for weight loss management.  It helps with setting goals and tracking your weight.  Even if you are not trying to lose weight, at-home digital bathroom scales can be used to maintain your weight too.  To know your normal weight range you must take consistent measurements on one single scale at the same time of day.  It is normal for your body to fluctuate 2 to 3 pounds throughout the day, but a scale can help you learn your body’s normal weight and fluctuations.  Weekly to bi weekly weight measurements are important to track, and are helpful to write down in a journal.  This will make identifying abnormal weight loss or gain is easier to recognize.  Sudden, unintentional, changes in your weight can be related to underlying health conditions.  When you monitor your weight, communications with your doctor about fluctuations are more accurate and help to resolve issues more quickly.

weighing self on digital scale

4. Taking Your Temperature 

Your body temperature indicates your body’s ability to generate and expel heat.  Our bodies are able regulate within a safe narrow temperature range regardless of outside temperatures.  Normal temperatures typically average around 98.6°F (37°C), and depending on the types of thermometers you use for collecting measurements this may vary by 0.5° - 1.0°F.  Oral, axillary, forehead, and rectal thermometers are all available for at home use.  Digital thermometers are the most convenient, and easiest to read.  

Your doctor may take your temperature when you go in for a visit, but having an accurate medical thermometer at-home can really come in handy.  At home you are able to monitor and learn where your average body temperature measures; as typical ranges do vary among different people.  Knowing your body is important because you will also learn what is abnormal.  Home thermometers provide easy access to temperatures that you may need to relay to your doctor if you are experiencing readings outside your normal range.  Sometimes medications may cause a spike in temperature, as adjustments may need to be made to specific prescriptions and dosage.  It is an easy way to get important information fast without having to physically visit your doctor.

A fever typically exists to help fight off an infection inside your body, but temperatures over a certain range can become hazardous and no longer helpful.  Dangerous high grade fevers for adults average around 104°F-107°F.  When ill, it is important to have access to monitoring your fever in case a dangerous spike occurs, and medical attention is needed; or if your high temperature has been present for an abnormally long period of time.  Whether you utilize an oral thermometer, digital ear thermometer, or forehead thermometer the results provided are imperative and it is reassuring tool to have around.

taking temperature 

5. Measuring Respiratory Rate

Your respiratory rate is the frequency of breaths taken within one minute.  A regular respiration rate for adults falls between 16 to 20 breaths per minute, and is considered abnormal if below 12 or over 25 breaths while resting.  Medical monitoring of this vital sign is actually neglected and most of time your doctor does not even measure this during typical visits.  Your respiratory system is what delivers oxygen supply for your body’s energy production, and release of carbon dioxide.  It is super important and can actually act as a predictor of serious or respiratory illnesses. Your breathing rate can provide valuable information about your cardiac, neurological, and pulmonary conditions. In some cases, increased breathing rate can predict cardiac arrest or admittance into an intensive care unit; this usually occurs when the respiratory rate exceed 24-27 breaths per minute.

It is important to keep up with monitoring your respiratory rate on a regular basis.  Stay ahead of your health and detect breathing abnormalities that may be indicators of an underlying condition.  Sit up right, but try and keep a normal resting rate.  Count the number of times your chest inflates within a minute.  It is important to avoid manipulating your breaths to deter from receiving a false reading.  Take notes of your respiratory rate, and learn what your average breathing rate is to better help detect irregularity.

monitoring respiratory rate

Why You Should Be Checking Vitals

These vital signs are potentially far more important than you think.  Professional medical monitoring is not always enough. Regular monitoring of your pulse rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, weight, and temperature gives you the upper hand on your health, and will pay off tremendously.  Monitoring these vitals gives you the ability to communicate accurate measurements to your doctor, detect early signs of underlying health issues, and personally monitor your everyday health.  Normal adult vital signs will vary depending on one’s activity level and health.  Knowing what is normal for you will only help you to perceive what is considered healthy or unhealthy.

Jessica Hegg
Jessica Hegg

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