The human body is a highly complex mechanism of interdependent systems, which can make health monitoring confusing. Thankfully, we can get a health overview by measuring our body’s internal dashboard – our vital signs. The human body’s four main vital signs – body temperature, pulse rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure – are measurements of essential bodily functions. Vital sign measurements provide critical information about our state of health, both immediately, like during a medical emergency, or as an indicator of chronic disease/condition. Normal vital sign measurements will vary based on age, sex, physical condition, along with other factors.
Respiration rate is the number of breaths taken per minute and should be measured at rest. Increased respiration rate can be a sign of fever, illness, or other medical condition. Typical respiration rates for a healthy adult are 12 to 16 breaths per minute (bpm). “Rapid breathing, known as hyperventilation, can occur with anxiety, panic, and some medical conditions such as heart or lung problems.” Children have much faster respiration rates than adults, with infants averaging 30 to 60 bpm. Pediatric respiration rates will gradually decrease until age 12 when they approach the adult range.
The bodily functions that are measured as vital signs are defined as involuntary actions, in that our body does them automatically without thought. Heartbeat, body temperature, blood pressure, and breathing occur as part of our body’s built-in operating system, no software updates are needed. Breathing is unique in that we have direct control over it, and this offers an opportunity to use it to our advantage. Breathwork and meditation can be used as powerful tools to manage stress and anxiety. By consciously controlling and focusing on our breathing, we can slow everything down and be “in the moment.” Studies demonstrate that slowed breathing techniques heighten comfort and relaxation, and diminish symptoms of anxiety, depression, and anger. Simply taking a couple deep breaths can be very beneficial, as I’m sure we can all attest. Experts encourage us to focus on our breathing as a stress management tool. Respiration rate is the unique vital sign that we can use in our favor. Here’s to your health!