What are vital signs and why do they matter? This is a great question since most patients are not aware that their vital signs are checked on a regular basis. Yes, we keep track of your vital signs every time we see you, to monitor any significant changes which may be an indication of something wrong. It’s all part of the comprehensive physical exams, and general and preventative health care we provide at MyCare Health Partners. Our attention to detail through compassionate medical expertise and advanced technology gives us an advantage in making the most of your vital signs. Our affiliation with TopLine MD Health Alliance gives you access to top-quality physicians, medical professionals, and medical facilities with advanced technologies, insights, and conveniences throughout Florida. 

Vital Signs – What Are They?

Vital signs are simply measurements of your body’s basic functions, which include pulse rate, body temperature, respiration rate, blood pressure. Abnormal temperature signs may appear due to fever and are an indication of illness or infection. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, when the body temperature rises one degree or more above normal, it is a definite sign of fever. Hypothermia is when the body temperature drops below 95 degrees.

They are extremely valuable when detecting and monitoring health conditions and can be taken in a medical office, at the site of a medical emergency, or even at home. There are several ways to monitor vital signs and many that can be conducted in the privacy and comfort of your own home. Let’s begin by breaking down the vital signs.

  • Pulse rate – This measurement pertains to your heart rate or the number of times your heart beats per minute. As your heart beats, your arteries contract and expand as blood flows through them, indicating heart rhythm and the strength of your heart pulse. Healthy adults should have a pulse that is between 60 to 100 beats per minute. This can fluctuate with increased exercise, injury, illness, emotions, and sometimes stress. Athletes typically have pulse rates around 40 beats per minute due to increased cardiovascular activity, while young females at age 12 and older have faster pulse rates than young males. There is a simple way to check your own pulse, which you may have done before. As a refresher, below is how you can check your own pulse rate: 
    • Take your first and second fingertips and place them on your arteries, typically on your wrist until you feel a strong pulse. 
    • Start counting your pulse when a clock’s second hand is on 12 and count for 60 seconds. You can also count for 15 seconds and multiply by four.
    • Remember to concentrate on your pulse and not the clock continuously. 
    • When in doubt, ask someone else to count your pulse for you. 
  • Temperature – This vital sign measurement is dependent on a number of factors that include gender, food and fluid consumption, activity, time of day, and menstrual cycle for women. Normal body temperature ranges fall between 97.8 degrees and 99 degrees and can be taken in a number of ways: 
    • Orally – Most of us are familiar with having our body temperature taken, which usually begins with the phrase, “Now say ahh” as a stick with numbers is placed under our tongue. With recent advances in medical technologies, body temperatures are now taken using a digital thermometer with an electronic probe. 
    • Axillary – Body temperature can be taken under the arm using a glass or digital thermometer. Temperature ranges tend to be between .3 and .4 degrees lower than those taken by mouth. 
    • Rectally – Again, temperatures can also be taken rectally via a glass or digital thermometer but tend to be .5 to .7 higher than when taken by mouth. 
    • Ear – Most of us are also familiar with visiting our doctors and having a cone-like device placed in our ears. It is a special thermometer that can easily and quickly measure the temperature of the eardrum, reflective of the body’s core temperature. 
    • By skin – Technological medical advances have made it possible to check body temperature with a quick forehead swipe. This is by far the least invasive of all methods and a welcome one for those who frequently have their temperatures checked. 
  • Blood pressure – You’ve probably heard a lot about blood pressure rates. This vital sign measurement monitors the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as they contract and relax. Every time the heartbeats, blood is pumped into the arteries and is at its highest levels as the heart contracts. As the heart relaxes, blood pressure declines. Two numbers are recorded for blood pressure rates that include systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. To simplify, systolic pressure or the higher number refers to the pressure inside the arteries as the heart contracts and pumps blood throughout the body. Diastolic pressure or lower number refers to the pressure inside the artery while the heart is at rest. Both numbers are recorded as millimeters of mercury or mm Hg. This recording is reflective of the use of an old fashioned manual blood pressure device that contained a mercury column. Nowadays, your doctor may use a dial for measurement. There are several key components to be mindful of when discussing blood pressure rates: 

Blood pressure control

    • High blood pressure – Also referred to as hypertension, high blood pressure is evidence of increased resistance against the flow of blood, making the heart work harder. As you may have heard, hypertension can result in heart attack, heart failure, and stroke. Blood pressure rates can be divided into categories. Remember, these numbers are only a guide and a single blood pressure measurement may not be an indication of a health condition. Physicians typically want to see numerous measurements overtime to make an accurate diagnosis: 
      • Normal – systolic pressure is less than 120 and diastolic of less than 80 (120/80)
      • Elevated – systolic pressure is between 120 to 129 and diastolic of 80
      • Stage 1 –  systolic pressure  is between 130 to 139 or diastolic of 80 to 89
      • State 2 – the  pressure is systolic is between 140 or higher or diastolic of 90 or higher
    • Measurement – There are several ways to monitor your blood pressure. It’s a good idea to do so on a regular basis if you have hypertension, as you are able to take measurements throughout the day. This can be extremely helpful to your doctor to determine how effective your blood pressure medication currently is. There are a few things to keep in mind before measuring blood pressure: 
      • Refrain from smoking or drinking coffee at least 30 minutes before taking your blood pressure
      • Use the restroom and rest for at least five minutes before taking the test 
      • During the test, make sure to sit with your back supported and your feet flat to the ground. Always place your arm on a flat surface at heart level and place the middle of the cuff above the elbow bend. You can check for an illustration in the monitor’s instruction manual. 
      • Stay consistent by taking the test at the same time and location every day or per physician’s recommendation, and keep accurate records of each reading. 
      • Always bring this record to your doctor appointments as well as the monitor, if it contains a built-in memory feature
      • If you have several high readings, call your doctor
      • If you reach a systolic or diastolic pressure reading, seek emergency medical attention  
    • Blood measurement from home – Knowing how to take your blood pressure from home is highly beneficial and recommended for those individuals who have issues with their blood pressure. Options to take blood pressure rates at home include your fingers or medical equipment that includes an aneroid monitor and digital monitor. 
      • An aneroid monitor has a dial gauge and is read by a pointer. It is less expensive but can be easily damaged making readings less accurate. It also requires the person using it to use a stethoscope to listen for heartbeats, so it may not be good for hearing impaired patients. 
      • A digital monitor displays the blood pressure on a small screen which is easy to read, making it the most sought after form of blood pressure measurement tool. However, body movements or an irregular heart rate can affect the accuracy of the readings. Digital monitors are more expensive but are great for the hearing impaired. 
      • Using your fingers is an option but it is not the most accurate. It is the least expensive of your choices. 
  • Respiration rate – This rate is measured by the number of breaths taken per minute based on how many times your chest rises for 60 seconds, and is usually taken when a person is at rest. A respiration rate can be impacted by illness, fever, and other medical conditions. Normal respiration rates for adults fall in a range between 12 to 20 beats per minute. 

Request an Appointment Today 

Now that you understand why doctors or nurses are always taking your blood pressure, request an appointment today and get proactive about your health in the new year. MyCare Health Partners are passionate about providing excellent and experienced health care services to Florida residents. Have you had an annual physical or received a health assessment lately? Now is a good time to do so. Having your pulse rate and other vital signs documented on a regular basis is a key part of preventative healthcare. With extended weekend hours to compliment your busy schedule, we understand how important it is to fit health management habits into your lifestyle. We want to continue to partner with you on your health journey and that starts with an appointment request today!