Stay Healthy By Keeping Track of these Four Vitals

4 healthy vitals to track

*Please note: this is not medical advice nor is intended as such. Please speak with your healthcare provider if you have any health concerns. 

A visit to your doctor almost always starts with the typical rundown of questions and an assessment of your vital signs. This gives your doctor a starting point for assessing your health and uncovering any health issues that need to be addressed.

However, medical professionals are now saying that having your vitals checked once or twice a year at your regular appointments isn’t enough.

For optimal health, it’s suggested that you track your important vitals regularly on your own.

Why You Should Be Tracking Your Vitals Regularly

There are a couple of reasons why checking your own vitals regularly can be beneficial. A change in vitals can often be one of the first signs that something is amiss with your health.

It doesn’t always signal something major, but it’s good to be on top of these changes.

For example, we all know that a rise in body temperature almost always signals that your body is fighting off some infection. Likewise, a change in respiration can signal a respiratory illness, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, RSV, or other infections that can cause respiratory changes.

Monitoring your important vitals also gives your healthcare provider a good idea of your baseline vitals. The snapshot they get in the office might not provide an accurate picture of what your vitals are on a regular basis.

For example, you might experience anxiety surrounding a doctor’s appointment, which may raise your blood pressure and heart rate. It’s good for your physician to know whether this is an isolated incident or if those vitals are consistently high.

When you regularly monitor your vitals and see that one isn’t in the optimal range, it can motivate making positive changes to your health.

It’s one thing to know that you should be getting more exercise, but it’s less easy to find excuses not to when you realize your heart rate and respiration speed up after just one walk around the block.

Four important vitals to track

Body Temperature

Of all the vitals that you can monitor at home, body temperature is the one you’re probably most familiar with. A temperature of 98.6 is considered normal, but this may fluctuate by a degree or two at different points in the day or depending on your surroundings. Some people also have a normal body temperature that differentiates a bit from this.

Body temperature is typically lower in the morning when you wake up, and your surroundings can also influence it. Being in a chilly room will likely result in a slightly lower temperature reading, while snuggling up in a blanket will increase your body temperature a bit.

The type of thermometer you also use affects what is determined to be a “normal” temperature, as they measure temperature in different ways.

Here is what’s considered a normal temperature using different types of thermometers:

  • Oral Thermometer: 98.6 degrees

  • Rectal Thermometer: 98.9 – 99.6 degrees

  • Ear Thermometer: 98.9 -99.6 degrees 

  • Armpit Thermometer: 97.6-98.1 degrees

  • Forehead Scanner: 97.6 – 98.1 degrees

The important thing to remember when tracking your temperature is to do so at the same time every day in a temperature-stable environment. Of course, if you’re not feeling well, you don’t have to wait until a certain time of the day to see if your temperature is rising or if you’re responding to fever-reducing medication. 

Heart Rate

Monitoring your resting heart rate can help in assessing your overall health and determine if you’re at risk of developing cardiovascular disease. For most of us, a resting heart rate should be somewhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute.

This is a significant range of normal, which is part of why it’s important to know where your resting heart rate typically falls on that spectrum.

Measuring your resting heart rate involves measuring your pulse when you’ve been rather sedentary for at least 30 minutes. If you measure your heart rate right after you return home from running errands, you’ll probably get a pretty accurate measurement. However, if you experienced a bit of road rage while you were out or had to carry in armloads of groceries, it’s best to relax and let your body recover first.

Some things that may affect your daily resting heart rate include:

  • Caffeine or the use of other stimulants

  • Certain medications

  • Physical activity

  • Dehydration

  • Stress and anxiety

  • Emotions

  • Stress and anxiety

  • Age

Respiration Rate

Respiration rate is the measure of how fast or slowly you’re taking oxygen into your body. If you’ve ever felt like you were out of breath, it’s because your rate of respiration was increased as your body attempted to compensate for the extra use of oxygen caused by exercise or stress.

Taking the known reasons your respiration rate might spike out of the picture, it can be a good indicator of whether you’re suffering from allergies or respiratory illness. Certain cardiovascular conditions can also cause shortness of breath and a change in respiration.

Follow these steps to measure your rate of respiration:

  • Sit upright in a chair and try to relax 

  • Have a stopwatch or timer available

  • Start the time and count how many breaths you take in one minute – every time your chest rises and falls, count as one breath

  • Don’t try to force breaths; just let them come naturally for the most accurate result

An average respiration rate is between 16 and 20 breaths per minute. Respiration rate is considered abnormal if it falls below twelve breaths per minute or greater than 25 breaths per minute.

Blood Pressure

We know what you’re thinking. Who has a blood pressure cuff just hanging around at home? Honestly, it’s one of those things that should be in everyone’s house, right along with a thermometer and bandages.

Blood pressure monitoring devices have become more affordable and portable in recent years. Even if you don’t have one in your home, most larger grocery stores offer free blood pressure screening near their pharmacy.

Keeping track of your blood pressure with regular readings is the number one step you can take to catch signs of hypertension and pre-hypertension before they get worse.

  • You’re considered to have normal blood pressure if you get a reading of 120/80 or lower. 

  • At risk, or elevated blood pressure is reading between 120/80 and 139/89

  • High blood pressure is considered to be reading above 140/90

It’s important to note that the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure and The American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association have slightly different guidance on what defines elevated blood pressure and hypertension. 

Keeping Track of Your Weight

While weight isn’t technically considered a vital sign, it is something that you should be checking regularly, but the reasons have nothing to do with whether or not you’re trying to lose weight.

A sudden fluctuation in weight can be a sign that you should talk to your doctor. There’s a degree of normal fluctuations that occur, and some people can fluctuate as much as a couple of pounds each day.

But, if you normally hold steady at a certain weight range and see something different on the scale without making any effort to change your weight, this could signal a problem.

Sudden weight gain could signal that:

  • A medication you’re taking is causing weight gain as a side effect

  • You’re experiencing sleep disturbances you might not be aware of – a lack of sleep creates hormonal havoc, which can cause you to gain weight 

  • You have an undiagnosed thyroid disorder

  • There are underlying health issues that should be investigated by your doctor, including heart disease, diminished kidney dysfunction, and liver disease, as all of these can cause your body to retain excess fluids, which can increases your weight. 

Sudden, dramatic weight loss without trying might also signal that a trip to the doctor for a checkup. Stress and mental health challenges can often be the culprits, as both can cause a dramatic change in eating habits.

Digestive issues may also be to blame. People with IBS, IBD, celiac disease, Hiatal hernias, and ulcers often experience weight loss as a side effect of their condition. Of course, nothing here is meant to diagnose, but to simply give a broad sense of information. 

There are other health concerns that your doctor will likely want to check for.

Stay Healthy By Keeping Track of Your Health

You don’t need to monitor your vitals every day. In many cases, once or twice a week is more than sufficient, and when you see consistent readings, you can stretch it out to every two weeks to a month.

Making healthy lifestyle choices, seeing your doctor regularly, and monitoring your important vitals at home are all necessary steps to being the healthiest possible version of yourself.