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Blood Oxygen: What is a Normal Level

Despite its common appearance, though, many people are unaware of what information blood oxygen level diagnostic provides and how useful it can be in gauging your overall health.

What Is Blood Oxygen Level?

Much as the name suggests, your blood oxygen level provides a measurement of how much oxygen is circulating with your red blood cells.

This measurement provides crucial information on how well the lungs are working. When breathing in, the lungs transmit oxygen into capillaries, which are tiny blood vessels. The capillaries then send their oxygen-rich blood to the heart, which then pumps it to the rest of the body.

There are many uses for measuring blood oxygen levels. For example, they are measured to monitor patients before, during, and after surgery. They are also used to monitor patients on medications that may impact lung function, or they can be used for those with conditions that cause reduced blood oxygen levels as a way to assess lung function.

How is Blood Oxygen Measured?

Blood oxygen levels are most commonly measured through pulse oximetry, which is a painless and non-invasive test. Most everyone has had their blood oxygen level read through a pulse oximeter, which typically goes on the fingertip.

The pulse oximeter is placed flush with a part of the skin and emits a light that passes through the skin, tissue, and blood. On the other side of the skin is a sensor that detects and measures the amount of light that comes through. Using this measurement, the device is able to calculate the blood oxygen level.

Compared to the more traditional methods of drawing a sample of arterial blood, pulse oximetry is both a non-invasive and quick procedure. However, the classic pulse oximeter is very good for spot checking but less for continuous measurement. A typical device for continuous of blood oxygen level measurement is a wearable health trackers, offering a more conclusive reading on someone’s health.

While blood tests are the most accurate measurements of blood oxygen levels, pulse oximetry is often accurate within 2% to 4% of the actual blood saturation level, providing an excellent reference for those monitoring their own blood oxygen levels.

What Is a Normal Blood Oxygen Level?

An arterial blood gas test, or the traditional blood test, provides blood oxygen levels in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Average blood oxygen levels can vary between 75 and 100 mm Hg, and a low blood oxygen level is considered to be anything below 60 mm Hg.

Blood oxygen levels from a pulse oximeter are measured in terms of saturation, which is given as a percentage, with 94%-100% considered normal. If blood oxygen levels drop below 94%, that is when they are a cause of concern. It is crucial for anyone seeing blood oxygen levels below this level to immediately contact their healthcare provider.

Is Having a Low Oxygen Level a Sign Of COVID?

COVID-19 infection attacks the lungs, which can cause significant drops in blood oxygen levels.

However, other health conditions can cause low blood oxygen levels, such as sleep apnea, blood clots and pneumonia, so not all cases of low blood oxygen saturation are due to COVID-19.

Signs of Low Blood Oxygen

When the body’s blood oxygen level is too low, a condition called hypoxemia can occur, which develops when the body struggles to deliver oxygen to all its cells, tissues, and organs.

Symptoms of low blood oxygen levels include:

  • headaches
  • shortness of breath
  • dizziness
  • restlessness
  • chest pain
  • rapid breathing
  • rapid heartbeat
  • high blood pressure
  • lack of coordination
  • confusion
  • sense of euphoria
  • visual disorders

How to Increase Blood Oxygen Levels

There are many ways to get more oxygen in your blood. Some of these are preventive measures, while others provide an oxygen boost when numbers dip to lower than average. 

Manage Your Health Conditions

Many health conditions may lead to hypoxemia, including:

  • heart diseases
  • asthma
  • COVID-19
  • anemia
  • interstitial lung disease
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • pneumonia
  • acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
  • emphysema
  • pulmonary fibrosis
  • sleep apnea

If you have one or more of these conditions, properly managing it can help to prevent the potential decline in blood oxygen levels.

Adopt Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Making healthy lifestyle changes can improve your health and reduce the risk of developing health conditions that can cause hypoxemia.

These lifestyle changes can include:

  • getting regular exercise
  • sleeping to your needs
  • eating a balanced diet and drinking healthy
  • reducing stress levels

Quit Smoking

Smoking can severely damage the lungs, making it difficult for the lungs to properly function and provide enough oxygen to the body. By not smoking, or quitting, you can improve your lung function and prevent lasting damage. 

Lay in Prone Position

The prone position involves revolving between lying on your back to lying on your abdomen. This positioning helps to improve breathing comfort and oxygenation, allowing you to increase your blood oxygen levels.

Supplemental Oxygen

In extreme cases where blood oxygen levels are dangerously low, a patient can be administered supplemental oxygen to increase their oxygen intake.

ACBT exercises

For those with something blocking their lungs, making it difficult to take deep and effective breaths, active cycle of breathing technique (ACBT) exercises can help you clear out the lungs.

Start by resting the shoulders and body and gently breathing in and out in a relaxed position. Then, take a slow, deep breath in before gently breathing out. Repeat these deep breaths and gentle exhales three or four times. Finally, move on to forced expirations. To do these, take a medium-sized breath in, then breathe out through the mouth quickly and forcefully, using the stomach and chest muscles. Repeat this twice.

These ACBT exercises can be repeated until the chest is cleared out, although it is important to stop before exhausting oneself.

Key Takeaways

Many diagnostic factors are effective in monitoring someone’s health, with blood oxygen levels seeing growing popularity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While low blood oxygen levels can be a sign of COVID-19 infection, they can also be due to many other health conditions impacting the respiratory or circulatory system.

A pulse oximeter is a quick and painless method of measuring blood oxygen levels, and this convenience makes it ideal for consistent measurements. With the Circular Ring and corresponding app, you can more easily see trends in your blood oxygen levels and immediately notice when your levels begin to drop below normal, allowing you to take a more central role in your health.


Coronavisrus Disease 2019 - www.cdc.gov

Daily acute intermittent hypoxia to improve walking function in persons with subacute spinal cord injury: a randomized clinical trial study protocol - bmcneurol.biomedcentral.com

Amaury Kosman

CEO of Circular, Amaury is all about technology and human capabilities improvement. He is a dedicated marathon runner and loves optimizing his training.

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