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August 17, 2010 > Listen to Your Vital Signs

Listen to Your Vital Signs

Upcoming Seminar Will Discuss Ways to Help Lower Your Blood Pressure

Most of us are accustomed to hearing about vital signs when we watch one of the popular medical dramas on TV. Vital signs are usually the first readings the nurse takes when a sick or injured patient is whisked into the emergency room.

But, knowing your vital signs is important even if you are healthy. In fact, keeping track of your body temperature, pulse rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate can help you monitor and improve your day-to-day health.

That's what family practice physician Steven Curran, M.D., and a physical therapist from Washington Hospital's Outpatient Rehabilitation Center will discuss during an upcoming Health & Wellness Seminar. Titled "What Are Your Vital Signs Telling You?" the class will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 24 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium located at 2500 Mowry Ave. (Washington West) Fremont. You can register for this free seminar online at

"We'll talk about what vital signs really mean and how people can understand the numbers," says Curran. "With some vital signs, such as blood pressure and pulse, we have a good sense of what is normal. With others, such as temperature and respirations, there is a wider range of what is considered normal, and these are more subject to interpretation."

The most important vital sign related to a person's long term risk of heart disease and stroke is blood pressure. The normal target level for blood pressure is a reading of 120/80. At the seminar, Curran will explain how blood pressure is measured, why it is important, and what is considered high blood pressure.

"Many people are under the misconception that, as we get older, our blood pressure just normally gets higher," adds Curran. "In reality, normal blood pressure for older adults is the same as for young adults."

Blood pressure is just one element of a person's cardiac risk profile, which also includes cholesterol level, activity level, family history and more. It is important to be aware of and monitor these factors in determining your overall risk for heart disease.

Pulse rate, or heart rate, is a measure of how often your arteries expand, as part of your cardiovascular system. This vital sign can vary from person to person.

"A rapid pulse rate may be an indicator of poor health, especially if the beat is irregular," explains Curran. "Conversely, a heart rate that is too slow may also indicate an underlying problem."

The more fit you are, the lower your heart rate tends to be. World class athletes, for example, can have a pulse rate of 30 per minute. The normal pulse rate for an adult is between 60 and 80 per minute. People who exercise frequently often have a pulse rate of less than 60.

Dr. Curran will talk about how you can calculate a normal heart rate during exercise and how your heart rate should recover to normal after exercise.

"People who come to the seminar will get a better idea of what their vital signs are and how to interpret them," he says. "This will also help with monitoring vital signs at home and knowing if the readings indicate you should see a physician."

During the seminar, the physical therapist will teach useful exercises that can be effective in improving vital signs, including blood pressure and heart rate. Participants will learn ways to improve their everyday health by getting their vital signs in better shape.

Dr. Curran will also provide information about helpful Web-based resources with further information on vital signs. Time will be allotted for audience questions and answers.

To reserve your spot at "What Are Your Vital Signs Telling You?" register online at or call Health Connection at (800) 963-7070.

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