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Functional Medicine Explained

Optimal vs. Normal Vital Signs Explained


As a patient, you know what your doctor needs from you as soon as you get into the office: Vital Signs. Do you know what your optimal heart rate range is? Is your blood pressure under control? What about your waist-to-hip ratio? Don’t worry, and we are here for you. This quick guide will help you understand why these measurements are important and how to interpret the results and know-how to work with your doctor.

In medicine, a range is considered normal when 95 percent of the population fall between these values, the remaining population that is outside of these values is considered abnormal. Meaning that the values (lower and upper range) are defined by the population that is being studied. Have you ever thought about this? if we are living in a world where 70% of the population is overweight and sick, we are setting the bar very low. This is what is being considered normal, but if you are reading this is because you want to prevent disease, then the right word you are looking for is optimal.

Heart pulse or heart rate is the number that your heart pulses in one minute. It is reflective of your heart condition, cardiovascular heart and stress. Heart rate con correlates to your thyroid function as well; if your heart rate over optimal ranges, you could be dealing with an overactive thyroid gland. A heart rate under optimal ranges could reflect an underactive thyroid gland.

Normal range: 60-100 beats per minute.

Optimal range:60-80 beats per minute.

Heart rate variability, this measurement is not commonly checked by doctors. Heart rate variability shows how complex are the beats of your heart. What you want is a heartbeat that is complex and variable instead of steady. You would prefer a 67, 71, 69 ½, and then 73 over a constant 72. This is correlated to our autonomous nervous system; this one controls our digestive system, heart rate, and breathing.

Ideal: high HRV.

If we talk about heart rate, then we have to continue with blood pressure. This measurement has two numbers; the top number is systolic, this happens when the heart contracts. The lower number is diastolic and reflects when the heart is at rest. Blood pressure counts the resistance that our heart is pushing against.

Normal: 130/80mmHg

Optimal: 110/60-129/79mmHg

Weight and height is crucial information to have in your medical record, these two measurements are used to get your body mass index. Body mass index or BMI takes your weight in kilos and divides it by the squared of the patient’s height in meters, and it indicates nutritional status.

BMI= Weight (kg)/ Height (m)2

NutritionalStatus Underweight Normal weight Pre-obesity(overweight) Obesity class I Obesity class II Obesity class III
BMI below 18.5 18.5-24.9 25.0-29.9 30.0-34.9 35.0-39.9 Above 40
BMI’s classification by WHO.

For example, if my patient’s weight is 187Lb (85kg) and 6 ft (1.84m), this patient’s BMI would be 25.1. therefore their nutritional status would be overweight. The problem with BMI is that it only considers weight as a quantity without noting if this amount of weight is muscle or fat. Therefore, taking only this measurement to describe nutritional status would be a mistake. Many people may be inside the normal weight range but have low muscle and high fat composition. A weightlifter might have a BMI of 29, with a muscular composition and low-fat percentage.

A better way to know about our nutritional status and metabolic risk is the waist-to-hip ratio. This measurement can explain how your body fat is distributed; if we keep track of our measures, we could have better control, which could help us prevent diseases such as diabetes type 2, obesity, and heart failure. You can measure your waist and hip at home. Here is how:

Waist: Taking your last rib as a reference and your iliac crest (the upper bone part of your hip), measure the midway between these two points. You can take your belly button as a reference.

Hips: Measure the widest part of your hip area. This could be right below your belt.

Divide the measurements: waist/hip= waist-to-hip ratio. The optimal results are:

For women:less than 0.8.

For men: less than 0.9

Now you know about your vitals; you know how they should be measured and why. Next time you are with your doctor, talk about them, tell him about your goals, and ask him how you can get there. When a patient does their research and stays informed, it promotes a better relationship with the healthcare professional to work together towards the patient´s better health.

Understanding Diabetes

Understanding diabetes: Read Below.

Hyman, Mark. “Vital Signs.” Commune, 2020,


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