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Do you often wonder what blood pressure is? What do doctors mean by the top and bottom numbers of your blood pressure or more commonly called as BP? Blood pressure is vital to life. This pressure forces the blood to flow throughout our body and deliver nutrients to the various organs. Do you know how to take blood pressure on your own? Or who should check BP and maintain a record of all those readings?
Delve in with us to know about blood pressure, its readings and outlook and the methods to measure BP.
What Is Blood Pressure?
Vital signs of the body determine the basic functioning of the body. Blood pressure is one of the vital signs that let you know how well is your heart functioning. It provides a clue about the amount of blood your heart is able to pump through the blood vessels.
The four main vital signs of your body are –
- body temperature
- heart rate
- breathing rate
- blood pressure
Too high or low vital signs indicate something is wrong with your health.
BP is measured by two numbers –
- First reading or top number – systolic pressure
- Second reading or bottom number – diastolic pressure
Blood pressure is measured in the units mm Hg i.e. millimetres of mercury. You may have seen how the doctors record your BP; 125/90 mm Hg. In this case, 125 is the systolic pressure while 90 is the diastolic pressure.
Systolic BP measured the arterial blood pressure when the heart contracts to pump the blood. However, the diastolic BP is the arterial blood pressure when the heart is resting between the contractions (beats).
High blood pressure indicated that the heart has to work harder to pump blood through the arteries. This may be a sign of a stressed or diseased heart. It is convenient to check your BP at home but the initial diagnosis and checkup should be done with your doctor.
Discuss your condition with the doctor, learn about how to take blood pressure at home, and the ways you can record and interpret the results. The physician may recommend you to check your BP:
- at certain times of the day
- before or after taking a certain medication
- when you feel stressed or dizzy
How To Take Blood Pressure At Home?
There are different methods to measure blood pressure. You can either opt for various automated blood pressure devices or check your pressure with smartphone apps or do it manually without a machine.
Let’s dig in more about how to take blood pressure by various methods:
Automated Blood Pressure Machine
The simplest way to monitor your BP at home is to buy an automated blood pressure machine with an upper arm cuff. These machines show accurate results and are very easy to install and use. Don’t worry about how to take blood pressure with machine. The automated monitors come with instruction manuals; you have to follow them correctly to get your readings correct.
These BP machines have a digital screen display which can be useful for people with hearing impairments. You can take the machine to the local drugstore or your doctor for a demonstration. Purchase a small journal or logbook to keep a record of your blood pressure readings. It’s vital to purchase a good quality machine to avoid erroneous readings. Get your BP manually checked during doctor visits to ensure your at-home device is showing you the correct results.
A variety of blood pressure monitors are available for online purchase. You may speak to your doctor about which brand and type to choose.
Check Your Blood Pressure Manually
To check your blood pressure without an automated machine you will require the following apparatus:
- a blood pressure cuff with a squeezable balloon,
- a sphygmomanometer (aneroid monitor with a numbered dial to read measurements), and
- a stethoscope
Here are steps on how to take blood pressure step by step manually at home:
- Sit in an upright relaxed position with your arm straight on the table. Now place the upper arm cuff on the bicep and squeeze the balloon to increase pressure and inflate the cuff. Watch for the readings on the sphygmomanometer and inflate the cuff about 20-30 mm Hg over your normal blood pressure or at 180 mm Hg.
- Once the cuff is inflated, place the stethoscope just inside the elbow crease under the cuff. Be sure to get a high-quality stethoscope to get accurate results. Slowly deflate the balloon and listen through the stethoscope. Note down the reading on the sphygmomanometer when you hear the first whoosh of blood flowing through your arteries. This is your systolic BP.
- You’ll hear the beats steadily, so continue listening and deflate the balloon until the rhythm stops. Note down this reading too. This is your diastolic BP. Record your blood pressure as systolic over diastolic readings, such as 118/82 mm Hg.
Check out this video to learn how to take blood pressure correctly.
Blood Pressure Readings Chart
Reading blood pressure is very easy and is categorized into four segments by the American Heart Association. The normal blood pressure is defined as anything less than 120/80 mm Hg. Healthy pressure reading may differ from individual to individual.
These numbers may fluctuate based on factors such as:
- physical activity
- underlying medical conditions
People who experience a systolic pressure over 180 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure over 120 mm Hg should consult your doctor immediately, as this is a sign of a hypertensive crisis and could be fatal if left unattended.
Monitoring blood pressure regularly helps the doctor identify heart conditions and health issues early on. You can start the treatment earlier and possibly reverse the damage in time.
Blood pressure treatment involves lifestyle changes such as eating healthy, adding exercise to your routine, and taking adequate sleep. The following medicines may be prescribed by the doctors to take down high blood pressure:
- calcium channel blockers
- angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs)
- angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
With proper treatment and preventive measures, you may be able to control your BP effectively.
Who Should Check Blood Pressure At Home?
Your doctor will recommend whether you need to check your BP at home:
- If you’re diagnosed with high blood pressure or hypertension.
- To check the effectiveness of your high blood pressure treatment.
- To closely monitor blood pressure in people with cardiac conditions and risk factors for high blood pressure.
- If you’re pregnant with preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced hypertension.
- To evaluate white coat syndrome or masked hypertension (false readings).
Caution: People with arrhythmias or atrial fibrillation should not use measure blood pressure at home. The devices might not show accurate results in such instances. Consult your doctor to recommend an appropriate monitoring method for you.
Tips For Home BP Monitoring
- Go to the bathroom before the test.
- Don’t drink coffee or smoke for 30 minutes before measuring your BP.
- Relax before you check your BP.
- Follow the manual correctly for instructions to use the blood pressure monitor.
- Take multiple readings 2-3 minutes apart and record BP.
- Check BP at the same time every day.
- Take your logbook to the next doctor’s appointment. If you see several high BP readings consult the doctor immediately.
Blood pressure monitoring is an effective way to keep heart problems in check. Proper use of a blood pressure monitor will help you keep a tab on your BP readings.
We hope to have highlighted how to take blood pressure on your own and interpret the results to keep a health check regularly.
Do let us know which devices you use to record blood pressure in the comments box below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here is how to take blood pressure on wrist manually. Place your index and middle finger on the inner wrist of another arm below the base of the thumb. You will feel your pulses against the fingers. Count the beats in 10 seconds and multiply the number by 6 to calculate your heart rate. A normal heart rate indicates normal blood pressure. However, these results may not be accurate. You need to confirm the readings with a blood pressure monitor.
Monitoring BP at home allows you to maintain an accurate reading log. This will also help the doctor to determine the efficacy of hypertension treatment.
Yes, smartphone apps can help you monitor BP levels. Added to the BP these apps can track, analyze and record your weight and pulse rate also. The popular apps to measure blood pressure are –
• Blood Pressure Monitor- Family Lite
• Blood Pressure Companion
• Smart Blood Pressure Tracker
• Blood Pressure Watch
To record BP without the automated device you will require medical apparatus like a stethoscope, a blood pressure cuff with a squeezable balloon, and an aneroid monitor.
She is a pharmacist by education and working in the field of medical content development for more than 9 years. She has an excellent hold on medical content research and development and has produced valuable data for various pharmaceutical companies.