Oxygen is probably the most important element that the human body takes in. Its deficiency in blood results in shortness of breath and the death of cells leading to organ failure. Take into consideration the fact that the human body takes in 13 pints of air per minute into the body to take in oxygen. This is equivalent to about 7387.38 cubic centimeters (CC) per minute. Its concentration in the human body is also an equally important issue. Upfront, the normal blood oxygen level is about 95% to 100%, anything lesser than 85% to 90% means that you need to wear an oxygen mask. Smokers and continual alcohol consumers and the consumers of certain drugs usually have a concentration level which hovers around 90%. In this article, some facts regarding the normal blood levels of oxygen have been mentioned.
Oxygen in the Human Blood
After we take in air into our lungs, the oxygen that is present in the air, enters the blood flow and gets trapped or deposited into the hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is principally a metalloprotein that is present in the red blood cells. It does the job of acting as a carrier or of a vessel for oxygen (O2). When oxygen enters the blood flow and binds with hemoglobin, the entire color of the blood gets changed from dark bluish purple to red.
Concentration of blood is referred to as oxygen saturation. It is sometimes also referred to as 'sats'. It is basically a unit that measures or depicts the saturation of oxygen in the blood and hemoglobin. Lower levels indicate that the saturation is not taking place properly. In simple words, the saturation process makes the blood appear like an aerated drink with hemoglobin being the carrier of the several O2 molecules.
A single hemoglobin molecule is like a small sphere, globular in shape and usually holds up to 4 molecules of this element. Now the unit, blood oxygen saturation principally refers to how much of that volume or capacity of the hemoglobin (and blood plasma), is getting bound to these molecules. This process takes place at the alveolar-capillary interface within the lungs. There are two prominent factors upon which these levels depend. One, the pressure of intake oxygen, and two, the type and quality of hemoglobin that exits at the interface.
Hemoglobin Saturation Curve
In the aforementioned process, the binding of oxygen to hemoglobin is represented by a dissociation curve . It also depicts a saturation level of the blood that exits at the alveolar-capillary interface. As per the curve, the percentage of saturation goes on increasing towards the end of the breath. Hence, the curve becomes upward projecting, in a manner than, towards the end of the breath, before you take your next breath, you will find that the last bonded portion of blood contains a maximum level of saturation (95% to 100%). This is possibly the best for human respiration, after all, our body runs on aerobic metabolism.
Measurement of Normal Levels
You will come across several percentages that have been marked and measured by a Pulse oximeter (measurement of actual blood saturation) or a Pulse oximetry test (measurement of oxygen in hemoglobin). This is basically the percentage of blood that has been saturated to the best possible limit. For the measurement of oxygen saturation, the Pulse oximetry or Pulse oximeter is attached to the patient's finger, upon which saturation can be measured properly.
As mentioned above, the normal level fluctuates between 95% to 100%, for any normal adult. On the other hand, in children, this number is about 97%-98%, and it then rises to about 100%. The number also fluctuates as per the activity, for example, during sleep, the number is just below normal, say 94% or so, as we are not doing any physical activity. During exercise, the saturation almost touches 100% in a relatively short time period. In case of smokers, it may reach as low as 92%.
Some common disorders associated with oxygen intake and blood saturation include, Asphyxia, that is the inability to breathe properly, or Hypoxia, which is the inability of the saturated blood to reach one designated body organ properly. Another one is Sleep apnea, which is actually a sleep disorder. In general, low levels of oxygen are known as Hypoxemia, which show the symptom of Cyanosis, which is the bluish discoloration of skin.
The tests for blood oxygen measurement, involve light-based tests, and hence, small kids do not have to worry about a needle while undergoing it. A simple test often points out several problems in the human body.
Disclaimer: This WellnessKeen article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.