Breaths Per Minute

Last Updated: April 27, 2019

Definition - What does Breaths Per Minute mean?

Breaths per minute is the physiological process of the respiratory system that involves the number of involuntary breaths completed during a sixty second cycle. In medicine, breaths per minute is an interdependent function of the pulse, or beats per minute, where autonomous breathing patterns correspond with the amount of oxygen circulating in the blood to maintain homeostasis. A respiration rate that falls between 12 to 20 breaths per minute is deemed normal.

WorkplaceTesting explains Breaths Per Minute

A respiration rate that fluctuates can be a telltale indicator of major health conditions including asthma, congestive heart failure, and pneumonia. Pulse oximetry is a practical resource for measuring the pulse (heart rate) and its coinciding oxygen content in the blood to identify a depletion or oxygen desaturation that can compromise health. Sleep disorders can adversely influence respiratory rate, for example, sleep apnea causes intermittent pauses of breathing due to a blocked airway passage. Incidentally, oxygen levels fall, causing high blood pressure and heart rate elevation, in turn, leading to potential coronary heart disease.

Since breaths per minute and pulse are complementary functions of the cardiopulmonary system, extensive testing is a usual requirement where certain respiratory rate anomalies can have underlying epidemiological implications. For instance, pulse oximetry combined with polysomnography is an exhaustive appraisal of the different sleep stage cycles, especially in cases of severe oxygen desaturation levels. Obstructive sleep apnea is characterized by intermittent cessations of breathing during the night and is also a common culprit for placing pronounced stress on the heart. Doctors may administer a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device to regulate normal breathing cycles and stabilize heart rate to promote healthy sleep patterns.

Clinicians use breaths per minute as a basic criterion combined with the pulse to establish respiratory rate as a definitive marker in cardiopulmonary normality.

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