The four primary medical vital signs are body temperature, respiration rate, pulse rate and blood pressure. These physical measurements provide critical data regarding an individual's physiological state.
Vital signs are clinical measurements pertaining to the degree of functioning of a person's fundamental bodily functions. For a typical healthy adult, normal ranges include a blood pressure between 90/60 mm/Hg and 120/80 mm/Hg, respiration rate between 12 and 18 breaths per minute, pulse rate between 60 and 100 beats per minute and body temperature between 97.8 and 99.1 degrees Fahrenheit, as reported by MedlinePlus. These ranges may vary between individuals due to differences in sex, age, body weight and daily activities.
Body temperature can be measured by inserting a thermometer in the mouth, rectum, armpit, skin or ear. Abnormal temperatures are generally associated with fevers and hypothermia. Respiration rate refers to the number of inhalations per minute, where increased rates may be triggered by certain ailments. Pulse rate is related to the number of heartbeats within a minute. Measuring the pulse rate also provides information regarding cardiac rhythm and pulse strength. Pulse rate can be taken by using two fingers and applying pressure on the wrist and lower neck. Blood pressure is defined as the force exerted by the blood on the arterial walls. Abnormally high blood pressures reaching 140/90 mm/Hg can potentially result in cardiac arrest and stroke.