Blood pressure is among the four major vital signs, along with heart rate, breathing rate, and body temperature.
By knowing our vital signs, we can gain a good idea of how well our body and organs are performing.
Once you know your vital signs and notice any changes, they can indicate an underlying health problem or a need to make lifestyle changes.
Taking your blood pressure by yourself isn’t difficult and is typically measured using a blood pressure cuff.
If you don’t have blood pressure machine or don’t wish to buy one you can visit your doctor or pharmacy for testing.
Measuring the blood pressure
Blood moves around our blood vessels under pressure, pumped by our heart, and the blood pressure equipment measures the amount of force that the blood places on those blood vessels.
Any blood pressure reading, no matter what equipment you use includes two sets of numbers that indicate the pressure inside the arteries as the blood flows through the body.
The upper or top number is called the systolic pressure and measures the blood pressure inside the arteries as the heart pumps blood. The lower or bottom number is called the diastolic pressure and is the pressure inside the arteries as the heart rests between each beat.
Normal blood pressure can be anything below 120/80 mm Hg. If however those numbers get higher than 120/80 mm Hg, this could be an indication that our heart is working harder than normal to pump blood through the arteries.
High blood pressure can be caused by many factors, these include but not limited to:
plaque build-up in the arteries
Don’t by a very cheap or gadget type BP monitor because accurate blood pressure readings are crucial, because high blood pressure may not cause any symptoms at all until it is dangerously high, then it may be too late for home remedies.
Doctors don’t just use the old-fashioned mechanical blood pressure monitor called a sphygmomanometer; they also use electronic blood pressure monitors in clinics. Many doctors recommend monitoring and recording the blood pressure at home.
It is possible to take blood pressure without using a machine.
You will need:
a blood pressure cuff with a squeezable balloon
an aneroid monitor, which has a numbered dial to read measurements
These are the components of a sphygmomanometer but don’t be put off by the big word, thet are neither expensive, nor complicated.
Once you have these, you can check your blood pressure manually. To do so, sit in a relaxed position with the arm at rest on a table. Wrap the cuff around the bicep and begin to squeeze the balloon so it increases the pressure. You will feel this happening straight away.
Look at the dial called the aneroid monitor and see it increase, watch the pressure rise to about 30 mm Hg over your normal known blood pressure, or to 180 mm Hg if you don’t know it. When the cuff is properly inflated, place the stethoscope just inside the elbow crease under the cuff.
Turn the knob to slowly deflate the balloon whilst listening through the stethoscope. As soon as the first heart beats is audible, note the number on the aneroid monitor. This is the systolic pressure.
Now continue to listen until the steady heartbeat sound stops, then note that number from the aneroid monitor again. This is the diastolic pressure. These two numbers are the blood pressure reading.
When you are monitoring your blood pressure at home, it is important to remember:
Manual cuffs come in different sizes. Using the right size ensures the most accurate reading.
The cuff should always sit directly on the bare skin, not over clothing.
Firstly take a few deep breaths then relax for up to 5 minutes before measuring your blood pressure.
Avoid talking during the test and ask others to be quiet so you can hear the heartbeats.
Place your feet flat on the floor and sit up straight while measuring the blood pressure.
Avoid checking blood pressure in a cold room.
Use a cushion to support the arm as close to heart level as possible.
Measure the blood pressure at a few different times during the day.
Avoid smoking, drinking, and exercise for 30 minutes before taking blood pressure.
Empty the bladder before taking a blood pressure test. A full bladder may give an incorrect blood pressure reading.
There are some phone apps and wrist devices that marketers claim to successfully measure the blood pressure, however the results are frequently inaccurate so gizmos and gadgets are not a reliable way to monitor a person’s health unless recommended by a real clinician, not an actor in a white coat with a stethoscope..
Some apps that log blood pressure results may be helpful if you need to take regular blood pressure tests, however, ask your doctor for advice before investing.
With the right app, recording a set of readings into it may help doctors identify trends in blood pressure and recommend treatments.
Blood pressure readings fall into the following categories:
|Blood pressure status
|Systolic mm Hg
|Diastolic mm Hg
|Less than 120
|Less than 80
|Less than 80
|Stage 1 high blood pressure (hypertension)
|Stage 2 high blood pressure
|140 or higher
|90 or higher
|Hypertensive crisis (seek immediate medical attention)
|180 or higher
|120 or higher
Normal blood pressure is considered anything below 120/80 mm Hg. However, a healthy number may vary from person to person.
The numbers may change based on factors such as:
- physical activity
- underlying medical conditions
Anyone uncertain about their target blood pressure should visit a doctor for guidance.
If an at-home reading is higher than usual, it is important to do another reading 5 minutes later to ensure it is accurate.
Anyone who experiences a systolic pressure over 180 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure over 120 mm Hg should seek emergency medical care, as this is a sign of a hypertensive crisis.
All in all, blood pressure can vary based on a variety of factors, so it really is important to take more than one reading for accuracy.
Tests taken at home may be slightly different and not as accurate as those taken with a doctor’s blood pressure monitor, but good electronic automated blood pressure monitors are often just as precise.
If you are concerned about your blood pressure readings, you should consult your doctor.
Lifestyle changes are often necessary and may include things such as reducing salt intake and exercising regularly.
Medications may be recommended in some cases. Medications may be the cause. Monitoring blood pressure at home can help a doctor determine if the dose is sufficient or needs changing.