Blood is a conduit for providing the necessary amounts of oxygen to your body. A protein in the blood called hemoglobin is what actually carries oxygen to various parts of your body and supplies your tissues with oxygen.
Essentially, a higher count of red blood cells means that you have more hemoglobin, and that equates to an adequate supply of oxygen throughout your body.
Oxygen-rich blood travels through your arteries to deliver oxygen and essential nutrients to your body. To compare, oxygen-poor blood travels through veins back to the heart and lungs where it is reoxygenated.
In most cases, normal readings for blood oxygen levels range from 95 to 100 percent. Low blood oxygen levels occur when oxygen in the blood falls below normal levels. Low blood oxygen is most common in people with asthma, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Why is oxygen-rich blood so essential for basic bodily functions?
For optimal health and energy levels, a consistent supply of oxygen to your mitochondria is necessary. Important organs and organelles like mitochondria rely on oxygen to build and successfully provide energy for your body.
If mitochondria do not receive adequate amounts of oxygen, your energy levels and metabolism might suffer.
Oxygen also creates superoxides that help your body fight infections and recover from basic illnesses. As you age, illness, fatigue, and lowered energy levels are much more common, so making sure that your body isn’t deprived of oxygen is vital.
Ways To Increase Blood Oxygen Levels
1. Exercise regularly (3-5 times/week)
Cells burn oxygen more quickly during exercise. Walking, jogging, and weight lifting strengthen your cardiovascular system and increase your breathing rates which deepens your lungs and allows them to absorb more oxygen.
As a result of increased movement and increased carbon dioxide levels, the brain increases the rate of respiration in the body to supply more oxygen to your cells.
2. Decorate your home with plants
Plants absorb cardio-dioxide and expel oxygen, so increasing the amount of plants in your home will increase oxygen levels and contribute to oxygen-rich cells.
3. Sleep in a high-oxygen environment
Depending on where you live, try to leave your windows open at night so that you receive fresh air while you’re sleeping.
4. Monitor your diet
- Introduce vitamin B12 and folate to your diet. Folate helps your body make red blood cells which are the iron-rich cells that carry oxygen in your blood and B12 will help you make hemoglobin.
- Minimize your sodium intake in order to increase oxygenation processes.
- Eat more green vegetables and leafy-greens.
- Increase your iron levels to produce more hemoglobin and avoid feeling weak, tired, or irritable.
5. Cellular Therapy
If you live with a chronic lung disease, getting enough oxygen might require more intense action like cellular therapy. In this treatment, cells are taken from your body, separated from one another, and then returned to your body through the veins.
Foods That Help Increase Blood Oxygen Level
1. Antioxidant-rich foods
Antioxidants protect the body from the effects of free radicals which are molecules that are produced when your body breaks down food or is exposed to tobacco smoke and radiation. Free radicals might contribute to heart disease, cancer, and other severe health conditions.
Antioxidants like vitamin A, C, E and coenzyme Q10, help provide the proper amounts of oxygen to the bloodstream.
What to eat:
- Red kidney beans
- Dark leafy vegetables
- Coconut oil
- Green Tea
2. Oxygen-rich foods
Oxygen-rich diets typically include iron-rich foods like meats, poultry, fish, and legumes, and also low sodium foods like fresh fruits and vegetables.
What to eat:
- Avocados, Berries, Carrots, Currants, Ripe Bananas, Celery, Garlic, Dates
- Alfalfa Sprouts, Apricots and Sweet Apples.
- Sweet Grapes and Pears, Passion Fruit, Raisins, Pineapple
- Asparagus, watercress and seaweed
- Mango, parsley, papaya, limes and melons
- Capsicum (cayenne) cantaloupe
- Leafy greens
- Broccoli, celery
- Watermelon * (one of the best oxygen rich foods)
Meditation and Blood Oxygen Level
Many people participate in yoga or meditation as a way to stretch and increase flexibility, find a space of deep relaxation and mental awareness, or to destress.
The Critical Balance
Practicing weekly meditation might provide you with a balance between oxygen levels, carbon dioxide levels, and nitric oxide levels, leading to better blood circulation in the brain, and an increase in oxygen-rich blood cells. Carbon dioxide and nitric acid open up blood vessels in the brain which allows them to receive an adequate amount of oxygen.
Aside from an increase in oxygen-rich blood levels, you might also notice an improvement in your memory, focus, and concentration.
Best Places To Go On Vacations To Increase Blood Oxygen Level
Have you already made changes to your diet and exercise routine? Take a vacation and go to the beach where oxygen levels are typically at their highest. This change of environment will significantly affect your blood oxygen uptake.
At higher altitude locations, less oxygen is available which can cause a shortage of oxygen in the blood. To compensate, your body will produce more hemoglobin so that you don’t fall short on oxygen levels.
If you already live in a high altitude location, you most likely have higher hemoglobin levels that configure lower blood saturation.
What Happens When Blood Oxygen Level Gets Low
When blood oxygen levels decrease, the body can incur damage internally and if conditions worsen, it can lead to a coma or death. Mild cases of low blood oxygen levels typically result in the heart working harder, and fatigue and headaches. In more severe or untreated cases, the right ventricle to the heart which pumps blood into the lungs, has to work so hard that eventually it will fail.
Measuring blood-oxygen levels
- At sea level: Oxygen uptake should be 95% to 100%
- Mild Hypoxemia: Between 90% and 94%
- Moderate Hypoxemia: 75% and 89% oxygen in blood
- Severe Hypoxemia: Below 75% results in loss of consciousness and brain damage
Hypoxia vs. Hypoxemia
Hypoxia and hypoxemia are often used interchangeably, yet they are quite different. The New England Journal of Medicine says that hypoxemia occurs when your blood oxygen is low and hypoxia occurs if your body is not able to supply oxygen to the rest of your body due to low oxygen in your tissues.
In other words, when your blood doesn’t supply enough oxygen to your tissues, hypoxemia can actually cause hypoxia.
Hypoxemia usually occurs specifically in your arteries and can be a sign of larger issues that deal with breathing or circulation, leading to possible symptoms like shortness of breath or wheezing. And at any stage in the process of delivering oxygen to your cells, hypoxia can occur. As a result, you might experience problems with diffusion of oxygen in the lungs, a lack of hemoglobin, problems with blood flow, inconsistent breathing, and even decreased partial pressures of oxygen.
Hypoxemia Signs and symptoms
What Causes Hypoxemia?
- Anemia causes lowered numbers of red blood cells, which carry oxygen. Due to fewer red blood cells, oxygen-rich blood is typically more limited.
- During an asthma attack, your airways narrow and make it more difficult for your lungs to fill with oxygen. Coughing to clear your lungs uses even more oxygen and can make symptoms worse.
- Heart Problems
- Heart problems like Coronary Artery Disease and heart attacks significantly impact your body’s ability to develop, sustain, and utilize oxygen-rich blood cells.
- You may experience an increase in hemoglobin levels if you have a heart problem. Heart failure in the right side of the heart, also known as cor pulmonale, can result in excess or elevated levels of hemoglobin.
- Pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other lung diseases can all inhibit and interfere with your ability to use oxygen available in your bloodstream.
- Specifically, pneumonia is an infection that causes your air sacs to fill with fluid and prevents oxygen from entering the bloodstream.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) limits gas exchange and oxygen uptake in the bloodstream due to damage in the small airways and alveoli.
- Other lung diseases like cystic fibrosis, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and sarcoidosis also damage or scar the airways and alveoli, and can cause consistent inflammation, resulting in hypoxemia.
- Smoking causes a chain reaction, affecting the lungs, heart, hemoglobin levels, and blood oxygen levels. Research has shown that smoking tobacco results in raised hemoglobin concentrations in men and women. Your body will naturally increase hemoglobin levels in an effort to compensate for low blood oxygen levels. In this case, chronically low blood oxygen levels are caused by poor heart or lung functioning.
Interestingly, an increase in hemoglobin tends to be proportional to how much tobacco is smoked. So slowly cutting back on smoking might actually help reduce hemoglobin level and improve blood oxygen levels.
When To See A Doctor
If you are currently experiencing the signs and symptoms of low blood oxygen levels, you might already have an oxygen deficiency in your body tissues. Hypoxia is hard to predict and symptoms don’t typically manifest until the condition is already severe, so being proactive is key.
When to seek emergency care
Seek emergency care if you experience a severe shortness of breath that:
Blood oxygen levels are more important than we think and can lead to some debilitating and chronic health conditions.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms and signs above, it might be worthwhile to have you blood oxygen levels checked, especially as you age or if you have any existing chronic lung or heart conditions.