Blood Pressure Measurement - The Quick Basic Facts

Systolic and Diastolic Reading

Blood pressure measurement is a simple and painless exercise. Setting aside the time to pay a trip to your doctor or local clinic or alternatively investing in a home blood pressure monitor may very well end up saving your life in the long run. When high blood pressure is caught early, it is far easier to treat than when it has reached higher levels.

BP levels can be measured with a number of different apparatus. The most common instrument used for measuring blood pressure is termed a sphygmomanometer. Measuring blood pressure with a sphygmomanometer involves the use of a cuff which is placed around the upper arm. This cuff is then inflated so as to squeeze the artery in the arm shut for a couple of seconds. The cuff is then released, allowing blood to once again flow freely. A stethoscope is used to monitor the sounds as the blood enters the artery.

Blood pressure is measured in divisions of mmHg. This measure refers to how far in millimetres the pressure in a person's artery would force a unit of mercury or air. A blood pressure measurement is displayed as one figure over another, with both figures being represented in units of mmHg. The top figure is known as systolic blood pressure, while the bottom number is known as diastolic blood pressure.

The initial sound that is recorded is the systolic blood pressure reading. This reading indicates the primary force with which the blood hits the walls of the artery as the heart contracts. A systolic reading of 130 or lower is considered to be a healthy blood pressure reading. The last sound which is registered is the diastolic reading. This reading corresponds to the lowest pressure in the artery which can be recorded when the heart relaxes. To fall within the optimal blood pressure range, a diastolic reading should be below 80mmHg.

For some individuals, visiting a health care professional to have their blood pressure measured may cause anxiety and stress. This can bring about a reaction known as ‘white coat hypertension'. Patients who suffer “white coat” hypertension will experience elevated blood pressure levels as soon they enter a medical environment. This will result in their blood pressure measurement being above average every time they visit their doctor or health practitioner.

As soon as they are taken out of a medical setting however, their blood pressure typically returns to normal. Patients suffering from this type of hypertension are advised to either wear a portable blood pressure device, or alternatively invest in a home blood pressure monitor so as to be able to measure their blood pressure themselves in a relaxed and stress free environment.


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