Vital signs are quick assessment measures of a person’s temperature, heart rate (pulse) per minute, blood pressure, respirations (breaths) per minute, and oxygen level. These numbers are then compared to “normal” readings, to see where you fall, at a specific point in time. The standard normal readings are defined as follows:
Temperature: 98.6° F
Heart Rate: 60-100 per minute
Blood Pressure: 120/80
Respirations: 12-20 breaths per minute
Oxygen level: 95% or greater
Keep in mind that these are “normals” across all adults. What is normal for YOU however may vary from these guidelines depending on your fitness level, or any acute or chronic medical conditions you have. In addition, your vital signs can change throughout the course of a day, depending on many factors including medications or supplements you’ve taken, whether you have just exerted yourself or are at rest, even the environmental temperature in the room you are in can alter your readings and have them appear to be “abnormal”.
This is why we focus on trends in your vital signs readings, rather than one point-in-time snapshot. Vital signs taken at different times of the day can be skewed by external influences, making them not a true indicator of your current status. The best way to know YOUR “normal”, is to take your vital signs first thing in the morning, before you’ve eaten or drank. Taking them before you get out of bed is even better, that way you can get a true “resting” reading. It’s good practice to always use the same equipment too (the same thermometer, the same blood pressure machine, etc) to eliminate any variability from your device.
Record your vital signs using these tips every morning. Once you have multiple days’ recordings, you will be able to see your trend – and decipher your baseline vital signs. If any of your vital signs are consistently outside the broader population normals shown above, share this information with your doctor. There may be something going on with your body that needs to be treated medically and/or corrected through lifestyle changes.