A healthy adult takes 12 to 20 breaths per minute, although a much smaller number of breaths can saturate the blood with oxygen – about 6 to 8 per minute. Even though we take many breaths, most of us do not realize that we are not breathing optimally. Optimal breathing has a significant impact on our health and wellness as it is directly related to our body’s oxygen level. We will tell you why oxygen is so important to us and talk about 5 easy ways to get more oxygen. In this article, we will give you a complete guide about average blood oxygen level.
As much as 90% of our energy comes from oxygen. Breathing uses chemical and mechanical processes to deliver oxygen to every cell in the body and get rid of carbon dioxide. Our body needs oxygen to provide energy for all of our life processes. Carbon dioxide is a by-product of this process. With its conductive and respiratory zones, the respiratory system delivers air from the environment to the lungs and promotes gas exchange both in the lungs and inside cells.
The cells then need oxygen to break the chemical bonds of food molecules such as sugars, carbohydrates, and proteins to release the energy they contain. Delivering oxygen to our cells and muscles enables us to exercise and lead an everyday life.
What is an average blood oxygen level?
Oxygen concentration (SpO2) is a term used to assess the level of oxygen in a person’s bloodstream, which is a standard part of diagnosing patients worldwide. SpO2 stands for peripheral capillary oxygenation. It allows you to estimate how much oxygen your blood is carrying in comparison to its maximum capacity.
Why are oxygen and optimal blood levels essential? Breathing through the lungs provides our cells with oxygen, makes our brains work, and a steady heartbeat provides oxygen to the tissues. By exercising the inspiratory muscles (respiratory, intercostal, chest muscles), you can significantly increase oxygen.
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The norm of the average blood oxygen level in an adult
We inhale oxygen through our respiratory system, then oxygen goes directly into our blood and is then pumped into our body through the blood vessels. When we breathe, we absorb oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. This gas exchange occurs most efficiently in the final part of our lungs, that is, in the alveoli. Therefore, deep breaths are essential. They ensure that the air reaches the alveoli, where gas exchange occurs and makes the blood more oxygenated, which increases the average blood oxygen level in your blood.
Increased oxygen levels help us perform better, energizing both our mind and body. If we do not have enough oxygen (a state of hypoxia), we cannot work physically, and we will feel tired and overworked. Oxygen levels can vary significantly from person to person and depend on environmental factors. Normal SpO2 levels are between 94% and 99%. People with lung disease usually have lower SpO2 levels than usual. A SpO2 below 90% is very dangerous and can stress the heart, lungs, and liver.
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How to determine the level of oxygen in the blood of an adult
Tests to check normal blood oxygen levels can help diagnose or monitor lung diseases. The tests used include:
- pulse oximetry;
- blood gas analysis;
- evaluation of long-term oxygen therapy;
- test for the hypoxic load (suitability for flight).
Oxygen is carried in red blood cells by a molecule called hemoglobin. Pulse oximetry measures the amount of oxygen carried by the hemoglobin in the blood, oxygen saturation, and is expressed as a percentage (estimated on a 100-point scale). This is a simple, painless test in which the probe is placed on your fingertip or earlobe. People with lung disease may have low normal blood oxygen levels, so pulse oximetry can help diagnose the problem. The more the lungs are damaged, the more likely there is a problem with oxygen consumption.
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Pulse oximetry can also be used to determine the extent of lung damage.
The test can be performed as a one-time measurement during diagnosis. It can also be used to measure oxygen levels over a period of time, such as during exercise, such as walking, or when you are sleeping. Nail polish or false nails can block the light and affect the results. This will help you get an accurate result. Medical conditions, including anemia and Raynaud’s syndrome, can affect pulse oximetry results.
It passes 2 indicator lights through your fingertip or earlobe: one red and one infrared. Blood, which contains a lot of oxygen, absorbs more infrared light and allows more red light to pass through it. Blood without sufficient oxygen absorbs more red light and lets in more infrared light. If your blood cells lack oxygen, they will appear bluer.
The oximeter displays the percentage of oxygen in the blood. The average level of oxygen saturation in the blood is about 95-100% for a healthy person. If the oxygen level is lower, it could be a sign of a lung problem. People with low oxygen levels may need supplemental oxygen or other treatment.
How to use the oximeter
Measuring saturation is a gesture that is often done by your doctor or in hospitals. However, you can keep your blood oxygen level monitored through an instrument that is also suitable for home use.
This instrument has a probe and two diodes: two sensors whose task is to emit light rays at different wavelengths, between red and infrared. They also communicate with a photocell that receives this light. The device then processes the information and reports the percentage of saturated hemoglobin, therefore red, that it has found. There is a thought. In most cases, this particle has bonded to oxygen, and consequently the two correspond. But when there is a suspicion of intoxication, for example, the percentage could refer to this gas from carbon monoxide and thus be a bad sign.
Finally, I remind you that it is always good to ask your doctor for an opinion, mostly when the values do not fall within the range considered normal, between 97% and 99%. A 94% or less saturation can be a wake-up call, especially for people with swab positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection, as it may herald possible lung complications. For this reason, if you have contracted the new coronavirus and your values fall beyond this threshold, contact your doctor as soon as possible, who will tell you if it is necessary to go to the hospital to be monitored continuously with greater attention.
Blood gas analysis
It is used to more accurately determine the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. There are 2 types of tests:
- arterial blood gas analysis if the sample is taken from the wrist;
- capillary blood gas analysis if the sample is taken from the earlobe.
A blood gas test is used to check how well your lungs are working and whether they can efficiently exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. It can be used to find out if you need oxygen therapy.
The result will be a set of readings:
- carbon dioxide;
- acidity (pH).
Abnormal results could mean your body isn’t getting enough oxygen or getting rid of enough carbon dioxide. High carbon dioxide levels may mean that your breathing is shallow, and it may be helpful to use additional breathing devices.
Evaluation of long-term oxygen therapy
Oxygen therapy may help some people with deficient oxygen levels. Long-Term Oxygen Therapy Evaluation is a set of tests to measure the oxygen level in your blood to determine if it is low enough for oxygen therapy to be beneficial. An oxygen therapy assessment is used to measure oxygen levels in people with chronic conditions such as COPD, pulmonary fibrosis, asthma, pulmonary hypertension, or cystic fibrosis. The result can help your healthcare provider decide if you should get oxygen therapy.
An oxygen assessment is usually done when your lungs are stable and do not have a chest infection. Oxygen levels can decrease during infections, but if oxygen levels do not stay low, it is usually unnecessary to have oxygen at home. The assessment includes measuring blood gases 2 times at intervals of several weeks. Your oxygen level will be checked while you are sitting. You will have a pulse oximetry test and possibly a lung function test using a spirometer. Sometimes you are asked to take a walking test to assess if your oxygen levels decrease during exercise and, if this happens, to determine if supplemental oxygen is needed. For some people who do not need to use oxygen, it can be beneficial during exercise. This is only useful for people whose oxygen levels drop significantly when walking.
Hypoxic load test (suitability for flight)
The hypoxic stress test simulates the conditions inside the cabin of an aircraft during flight. This means that you will breathe with reduced oxygen levels, just like on an airplane. It is sometimes called a flight fitness test, but it only covers whether oxygen is needed. If you are living with lung disease, oxygen levels may be below normal. This means that during the flight, the oxygen level in the blood may drop even further, to a level where there is a risk of heart problems or other complications. Hypoxic load test (suitability for flight)
The hypoxic stress test simulates the conditions inside the cabin of an aircraft during flight. This means that you will breathe with reduced oxygen levels, just like on an airplane. If you are living with lung disease, oxygen levels may be below normal. This means that during the flight, the blood’s oxygen level may drop even further, to a level where there is a risk of heart problems or other complications.
How to increase the normal blood oxygen level in an adult
There are several ways to train your body to get more oxygen. Cardio exercise is one of them. However, it is not enough to focus on exercising when you want to increase your normal blood oxygen levels. By practicing cardio exercise, you train your cardiovascular and respiratory systems, but this does not mean that your breathing is optimal. We will list 5 important ways to increase the amount of oxygen.
Breathe fresh air
Open windows or go outside. Fresh air will give you energy and bring more oxygen to your lungs.
To saturate cells with oxygen and remove carbon dioxide, our lungs must be hydrated, that is, saturated with water. Hence, drinking enough water affects oxygen levels. On average, we lose e about 400 ml of water per day with breathing, and it is important to replenish them adequately.
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Eat foods rich in iron.
Certain foods can help improve a normal blood oxygen level. Iron is a mineral that is essential for red blood cells, which carry blood around the body. Excellent sources of iron-rich foods are green leafy vegetables, cabbage and broccoli, fruits, apples, legumes, and lean proteins such as eggs, poultry, and fish.
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The better we get and use oxygen, the more energy our cells can produce. Thus, the increased use of oxygen will strengthen our endurance. There is a clear correlation between performance and the amount of oxygen inhaled. The higher the VO2, the more endurance. Interval training and sprinting are the best methods for increasing oxygen levels.
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Train your breathing
Exercise alone is not enough if you want to improve your breathing quality, as exercise does not guarantee that you are actually using the lung capacity. However, breathing is vital for raising oxygen levels. Breathing slowly and deeply increases the oxygen level in the blood. If you have trouble breathing, your doctor will recommend a variety of breathing exercises.
For the same reason, many people after infections and athletes feel a huge difference when they start breathing with breathing training. Breathing exercises strengthen our endurance and help reduce stress levels by focusing attention and breathing more calmly.
Could the oxygen level in the blood be too high?
The blood’s oxygen level can be 100%, but it is important what kind of oxygen we breathe. It’s only 20% in the air. And if you breathe in pure oxygen, for example, from an oxygen cylinder (which, unfortunately, many began to do at home due to COVID-19), it can lead to hazardous conditions and even death. Oxygen poisoning, lung burns, and free radical oxidation with toxic reactions are some of the main risks.
What should be the level of oxygen in the blood with coronavirus?
Many people with COVID-19 have low oxygen levels, even when they are feeling well. Low oxygen levels can be an early sign that people need medical attention. The normal oxygen level is at least 95%. Some patients with chronic lung disease or sleep apnea may have a normal level of around 90%. If your home SpO2 is less than 95%, call your doctor.
At what level of oxygen in the blood to call a doctor at home?
The oxygen level measured by a pulse oximeter is not the only way to know how sick you are. Some people may feel very sick and have good oxygen levels, and some may feel normal but have low oxygen levels. You may also have low oxygen levels if you feel short of breath, breathe faster than usual, or feel too sick to go about your normal daily activities. If you have these symptoms, call your doctor right away.
Are there folk remedies for measuring blood oxygen levels?
No, there are no traditional methods for measuring the level of oxygen in the blood.
What are the complications of low oxygen levels in the blood?
They are possible when the pressure of oxygen in the air changes at high altitudes. In addition to pilots, crews and aircraft passengers, athletes, travelers (inhabitants of the plains) to ski resorts, mountaineering expeditions, and people who make pilgrimages to monasteries, abbeys, shrines, or temples are at high risk of developing acute mountain or alpine sickness.
If untreated, low blood levels can lead to severe manifestations: high-altitude pulmonary edema and high-altitude cerebral edema. Oxygenation at high altitudes can help such people or their companions acclimate to high altitudes and prevent or alleviate the symptoms of altitude sickness or the progression of severe illness.