Only just a decade ago, key indicators of good health were fairly finite. The primary one, of course, was if you weighed too much (or even just appeared to have too much fat on your body). You’d automatically and unfairly be labeled as unhealthy. But with the help of the body positivity movement and generally improved common sense, prime health is now defined less by numbers and more by what your body is capable of achieving and how you feel.
Signs of good health
Still, medical professionals haven’t eschewed numbers are indicators of good health entirely. In fact, they use a few as key indicators as to whether or not we are in good health.
Here, medical professionals reveal four of the key signs that show our good health, and five you should definitely keep an eye out for if something feels wrong.
Maintain optimal blood pressure
According to Jeffrey R. Carlson, MD, president of the Orthopaedic and Spine Center, one of the most telling signs of good health is our blood pressure. “Optimal blood pressure for the average person is expected to be roughly 120/80,” he explains. “The ‘pressure’ in blood pressure is generated by the heart. Heart function (the beating) is what generates the pressure needed to push blood throughout the arteries and veins.”
A range lower than 120/80 is even better, but with some caveats. “With better health and improved cardiovascular function, blood pressures can be much lower even in the range of 90/60,” Dr. Carlson says. “But this is very dependent on the individual. Low blood pressure can be an issue if a person is experiencing pain or some other debilitating symptom.”
The lower the heart rate, the healthier you are
When it comes to your heart rate, Dr. Carlson has a simple rule of thumb. “In general, the more healthy the individual, the lower the heart rate.” So if you’re ridiculously, insanely in shape, according to Dr. Carlson, you should see a heart rate hovering in the upper 30s and low 40s—but that’s if you’re a serious athlete. The average person should have roughly 60 to 100 beats per minute.
Your temperature is at a healthy level
Although body temperature isn’t an indicator that you’re marathon-ready, according to Dr. Bryan Becker, vice president of Integrated Care for DaVita, it’s still one of the telltale signs of prime health. “Normal body temperature (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit and 37 degrees Celsius) is a sign of being healthy,” explains Dr Becker. “When body temperature varies from its normal range, it can be a sign of illness, either acute or chronic and it can indicate certain types of health problems.”
Your respiratory rate is normal
It’s okay to breathe like a maniac during and immediately after an intense sweat sesh, but once your pulse starts to slow, so should your normal breathing rate (or your respiratory rate), Dr. Becker says. So if you’re taking 12 to 16 solid breaths while sprawled on the couch, you’re in pretty good shape.
But if these vital signs dip, be sure to take notice
While there are certain numerical vital signs that can give us a quick and accurate glimpse into our overall health, conversely, there are a slew of symptoms associated with poor health. According to Dr. Becker, if you are experiencing any of these five signs, keep a close eye on how your body progresses, or seek medical attention as soon as you can:
- night sweats
- cyclical fever/warm temperature
- extreme pain when exercising
- unintended weight loss
- abnormal bruising or bleeding
A jump or dip in weight isn’t necessarily a concern, but if it’s associated with aches and pain in the muscles and joints, you could have a blood sugar problem,Dr. Becker says.
Of course, while paying attention to your vital signs and symptoms of sickness is a surefire way to keep your health and check, individuality is the name of the game. If you’re truly concerned about your health or believe something is wrong, consult with a medical professional first.