Why Your Blood Needs Oxygen
Table of Contents
Oxygen is the air we breathe, and it’s important for our survival.
Every cell in our body needs oxygen to function, produce energy and stay healthy.
Oxygen is also necessary for cell growth and repair, and for keeping your immune system healthy.
Yet, many people don’t realize the importance of blood oxygenation and the factors that affect it.
Knowing how blood oxygenation works is vital for your health. It can help you prevent potential health problems that may arise.
When we breathe, oxygen enters the lungs and diffuses into the blood.
Once oxygen reaches our cells, it is used in a process known as cellular respiration to produce energy.
Cellular respiration is a complex process, but it can be summarized as follows:
- Oxygen enters the cell and binds to the mitochondria.
- Glucose is broken down into pyruvate.
- Pyruvate is converted into acetyl-CoA, which enters the Krebs cycle.
- The Krebs cycle produces energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate).
- ATP is used by the cell to perform all of its essential functions.
In this post, we’ll discuss on why your blood needs oxygen, the benefits, the science behind it, and how to measure it it.
We’ll talk about how red blood cells, hemoglobin, and breathing can help keep blood oxygen levels normal.
We’ll also take a look at the symptoms and implications of low blood oxygen, as well as the benefits of monitoring your blood oxygen levels.
The Basics of Blood and Oxygen
Blood transports oxygen, nutrients, and waste products throughout our bodies.
It is composed of plasma, red cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
Plasma is the liquid portion of blood, making up about 55% of its volume.
Red blood cells (RBCs) are the most abundant cells in blood, accounting for about 45% of its volume, and are responsible for carrying oxygen.
White blood cells (WBCs) fights off infections, whiles platelets stops the bleeding by forming blood clots.
Red blood cells are involved in the blood oxygenation process.
They contain hemoglobin that binds to oxygen molecules and facilitates their transport throughout the body.
Hemoglobin can bind to up to four oxygen molecules per hemoglobin molecule.
This unique property enables red blood cells to efficiently transport oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues. A normal blood oxygen level is between 95% and 100%.
This means that 95% to 100% of the hemoglobin in your blood carries oxygen.
Why Does Your Blood Need Oxygen?
Blood needs oxygen to transport it to the body’s cells, where it is used to produce energy. Your body’s cells need energy to function properly, and without oxygen, they would die.
Here are some of the reasons why your blood needs oxygen:
- To produce energy. Oxygen is needed for the production of ATP, it is used by all cells in the body to power their activities.
- To remove waste products. Cells produce energy, such as CO2 and lactic acid. Oxygen helps to remove these waste products from the cells and transport them to the lungs and kidneys for excretion.
- To support cell growth and repair. Oxygen is needed for the production of new cells and the repair of damaged cells.
- To fight infection. Oxygen helps the body’s immune system to fight infection. White blood cells need oxygen to work properly.
- Regulate blood pressure. Oxygen helps to relax the blood vessels, which lowers blood pressure.
- Balance blood pH. Oxygen helps to keep the blood pH within a normal range. This is important for enzyme activity and nerve function.
- Regulate blood clotting. Oxygen helps to regulate the production of platelets.
When you lack oxygen (O2), your body’s cells would not be able to produce energy, get rid of waste products, support cell growth and repair, or even fight infection.
The Benefits of Having Oxygen-Rich Blood
The benefits of having oxygen-rich blood are many, some of which include:
1. Improved Cardiovascular Health
When your blood is rich in oxygen, your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood throughout your body.
This reduces your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems.
2. Increased Energy Levels
Oxygen is the fuel that powers your cells. With plenty of oxygen in your blood, your cells can produce more energy, making you feel energized and less fatigued.
3. Improved Cognitive Function
The brain is a high-energy organ that needs constant supply of oxygen.
A good amount of oxygen in your blood helps the brain to work more efficiently and effectively.
This leads to increased memory, concentration, and problem-solving skills.
4. Stronger Immune System
Oxygen can boost your immune system and fight off infection.
When there’s oxygen in your blood, white blood cells (WBCs) are able to function and protect your body from diseases.
5. Reduced Risk of Chronic Diseases
Oxygen-rich blood is also linked to a reduced risk of developing cancer, diabetes, and arthritis.
Besides these benefits, oxygen-rich blood can also be beneficial for people with anemia, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Oxygen supports the body’s natural detoxification processes by helping in the breakdown and elimination of waste products and toxins.
What Happens if Your Blood Oxygen Level Drops?
When your blood oxygen level is low, a condition commonly known as hypoxemia occurs. Symptoms of hypoxemia include:
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heart rate
- Bluish tint to the skin or lips (cyanosis)
- Organ damage
Several health conditions also contribute to low blood oxygen levels, such as:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD is a lung diseases that blocks airflow, making it difficult to breathe and absorb oxygen.
- Asthma. A chronic respiratory condition that causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways.
- Pneumonia. An infection of the lungs that interferes with oxygen exchange.
- Pneumothorax. A collapsed lung, which reduces the amount of lung tissue available for oxygen absorption.
- Congestive heart failure. This is a condition in which the heart’s pumping ability is impaired, reducing blood flow and oxygen delivery to tissues.
How Much Oxygen Does The Blood Need?
The amount of oxygen your blood needs depends, but generally, the human body requires about 4-6 liters of oxygen per minute at rest.
Here are the oxygen requirements based on age, activity level, and health status:
- Infants (0-1 year): Infants typically need around 6 to 8 liters of oxygen per minute.
- Children (1-18 years): Oxygen requirements for children can range from 4 to 8 liters per minute, depending on their age and activity level.
- Adults (18-64 years): At rest, adults usually require 4 to 6 liters of oxygen per minute. This can increase during physical activity.
- Seniors (65 years and older): Similar to adults, seniors may need 4 to 6 liters of oxygen per minute at rest, with adjustments based on health and activity level.
How to Measure Your Blood Oxygen Levels
To measure blood oxygen levels, a pulse oximetry test is done to check the amount of oxygen in your blood if it’s high or low.
Pulse oximetry is a non-invasive test that measures oxygen saturation level of the blood, also known as SpO2.
It is a quick and easy way to assess how well the lungs are working and how well oxygen is being delivered to the body’s cells and tissues.
Pulse oximetry works by measuring the amount of oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor hemoglobin in the blood, to do this, a pulse oximeter is placed on your finger, earlobe, or toe.
The device measures how much light is absorbed by the blood.
The more oxygen-rich the blood is, the more red light it will absorb.
The more oxygen-poor the blood is, the more infrared light it will absorb.
The pulse oximeter calculates the SpO2 level by comparing the amount of red light and infrared light that is absorbed by the blood.
A normal SpO2 level is between 95% and 100%. If the SpO2 level drops below 92%, this may be a sign of or indicate hypoxia.
Pulse oximetry is a valuable tool for checking blood oxygen levels in people with:
- Congestive heart failure
- Cystic fibrosis
- Lung cancer
- Sleep apnea
Pulse oximetry can also be used to check blood oxygen levels during surgery or other procedures that require sedation.
Here are some tips for using a pulse oximeter:
- Place the device on a clean, dry finger, earlobe, or toe.
- Make sure the device is snug but not too tight.
- Avoid using the device on a finger with nail polish or a cold finger.
- Sit still and relax while the device is taking your reading.
- Wait a few minutes and take a second reading to confirm your results.
If you are using a pulse oximeter at home, let your doctor know if your SpO2 level drops below 92%.