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How To Find Your Blood Pressure

What Is A Blood Pressure Measurement

Blood Pressure Measurement: How to Check Blood Pressure Manually

Each time your heart beats, it pumps blood into your arteries. A blood pressure measurement is a test that measures the force in your arteries as your heart pumps. Blood pressure is measured as two numbers:

  • Systolic blood pressure measures pressure inside your arteries when the heart beats.
  • Diastolic blood pressure measures the pressure inside the artery when the heart rests between beats.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects tens of millions of adults in the United States. It increases the risk of life-threatening conditions including heart attack and stroke. But high blood pressure rarely causes symptoms. A blood pressure measurement helps diagnose high blood pressure early, so it may be treated before it leads to serious complications.

Other names: blood pressure reading, blood pressure test, blood pressure screening, sphygmomanometry

What Does Your Blood Pressure Reading Mean

If this is your first time taking your blood pressure, discuss the results with your doctor. Blood pressure is a very individualized vital sign reading, which means it can be very different for each person. Some people have naturally low blood pressure all the time, for example, while others may run on the higher side.

In general, a normal blood pressure is considered anything less than 120/80. Your own personal blood pressure will depend on your gender, age, weight, and any medical conditions you have. If you do register a blood pressure reading of 120/80 or over, wait two to five minutes and recheck.

If its still high, talk to your doctor to rule out hypertension. If your blood pressure ever goes over 180 systolic or over 120 diastolic after a repeat reading, seek emergency medical care right away.

Home Monitoring And Blood Pressure Goals

Home blood pressure monitoring can help guide your treatment by showing whether your medicines are working or if you need to take a different approach. A study published in March 2013 in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes found that people who monitored their blood pressure at home were more likely to reach their blood pressure goals than those who were monitored only by their doctor.

Anyone who has high blood pressure, or is at risk for it, can benefit from home blood pressure monitoring, especially women with diabetes or kidney disease. You might also want to consider taking your blood pressure at home if your levels tend to fluctuate. Getting an accurate accounting of the variations will help your doctor better treat your blood pressure.

Women with symptoms such as dizziness or headaches can also take regular readings “to see if their symptoms correlate to their blood pressure,” Dr. Zusman says.

Some conditions can make it harder to take your own blood pressureparticularly if you have an irregular heart rhythm known as atrial fibrillation. If this is uncontrolled, you may not be able to get an accurate reading with a home blood pressure monitor. Even if your arrhythmia is controlled, you may need to take your blood pressure several times in a row for accuracy.

If you’re interested in home blood pressure monitoring, here’s how to get started.

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Testing Your Blood Pressure At Home

Your GP may suggest 24-hour or ambulatory blood pressure monitoring if they think you may have high blood pressure .

ABPM tests your blood pressure regularly over 24 hours, by using a cuff attached to a portable device that’s worn on your waist.

You can continue with your daily activities during this time.

If you want to regularly check your blood pressure at home, you can buy a machine.

What Equipment Do I Need To Measure My Blood Pressure At Home

How To Calculate Average Blood Pressure

To measure your blood pressure at home, you can use either an aneroid monitor or digital monitor. Choose the type of monitor that best meets your needs. Look at the following features when you select a monitor.

  • Size: The right cuff size is very important. The cuff size you need is based on the size of your arm. You can ask the doctor, nurse, orpharmacist to help you. Blood pressure readings can be wrong if your cuff is the wrong size.
  • Price: Cost may be a key factor. Home blood pressure units vary in price. You may want to shop around to find the best deal. Keep in mind that pricey units may not be the best or most accurate.
  • Display: The numbers on the monitor should be easy for you to read.
  • Sound: You must be able to hear your heartbeat through the stethoscope.

Tests show that finger and wrist devices do not always provide correct measurements. These devices are sensitive to placement and body temperature. They also are expensive and can cost more than $100.

Aneroid monitor

The aneroid monitor manually checks your blood pressure. It has a gauge that you read by looking at a pointer on the dial. The cuff goes around your upper arm and you squeeze a rubber bulb to inflate it by hand.

Digital monitor

Inflation of the cuff is either automatic or manual, depending on the model. Deflation is automatic. Digital monitors are good for hearing-impaired patients, since there is no need to listen to your heartbeat through the stethoscope.

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When To See The Doctor

The doctor should check your monitor at least once a year. This ensures that the measurements are accurate.

Only a doctor can diagnose you with high blood pressure. Contact your doctor if you have high readings for several days. Be sure to take your blood pressure log with you to the visit.

Hypotension is low blood pressure. This occurs when your systolic pressure is consistently below 90 or is 25 points below your normal reading. Contact your doctor if you have low readings. Hypotension can be a sign of shock, which is life threatening. Call your doctor right away if you are dizzy or lightheaded.

How To Take Blood Pressure At Home

A home blood-pressure monitor enables you to take readings on your own. Devices range from arm cuffs to wrist cuffs and even watches though Elaine Chin, MD, says the former is best.

“The cuff that goes on the forearm is more standardized than a wrist version,” Chin said. “It’s all automatic. They’re one-button-push devices and are very easy.”

Chin recommends that when you’re taking your blood pressure at home, take readings at two points each day: morning and evening. Your doctor may recommend taking multiple readings per session, with a short break in between, to ensure accuracy. If you keep getting an unusual reading, you should follow up with your doctor.

Blood pressure is notoriously higher in the morning, and research has found that morning blood-pressure readings can be a better indicator of stroke risk than evening readings. In fact, a 2016 report in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology observed that morning blood-pressure readings taken at home were stronger predictors of stroke and coronary artery disease risk than in-office readings taken by a doctor.

“Make sure blood pressure is taken upon awakening, as soon as you roll out of bed, and make sure you’re sitting,” Chin said. “Keep doing the blood-pressure monitoring around the same time each day.”

Once you’re ready, here’s a step-by-step guide from Harvard Medical School:

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What Is Normal Blood Pressure And When Is Blood Pressure Considered To Be High

Blood pressure is always measured on a number of different days and when you are at rest. If several of these measurements are too high, you are said to have high blood pressure, even if only one of the two either the systolic or the diastolic one is high. The medical term for high blood pressure is hypertension. In adults, blood pressure is considered to be normal under a systolic value of 140 mmHg and under a diastolic value of 90 mmHg.

When taking your blood pressure for the first time, it makes sense to measure the blood pressure in both arms, because it’s sometimes high on only one side. The values that are higher are always the ones used for assessing blood pressure. After that it is enough to measure the blood pressure only in the arm that produced the higher reading. A person is considered to have high blood pressure if the systolic value is over 140 mmHg, the diastolic value is over 90 mmHg, or if both are higher than these readings.

Table: Normal and high blood pressure readings

systolic over 140 mmHg and/or diastolic over 90 mmHg

What Your Readings Mean

How to: Measure Blood Pressure

The top number refers to your systolic pressure, which is the force of the blood against the artery walls as your heart beats. The bottom number is your diastolic pressure, the blood pressure between heartbeats.

If the top number is 130 or more or if the bottom number is 80 or more, you should talk to your doctor, who can determine what lifestyle changes you need to make and if you need to take any medication.

Over time, high blood pressure can lead to complications, says Dr. Distel. It can lead to chronic kidney disease, strokes, heart disease and eye problems.

But with some simple changes like increasing exercise, eating a well-balanced diet, quitting smoking and reducing salt and alcohol, you may be able to lower your blood pressure.

The biggest thing is lifestyle changes, says Dr. Distel. Try to lower your sodium or salt intake in your diet and increase your aerobic activity.

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How To Check Your Blood Pressure At Home

Follow expert advice and a step-by-step video to ensure youre getting the most accurate numbers.

This post is part of a mini blog series dedicated to bringing awareness about your heart health during the American Heart Association’s national #HeartMonth. Miss the other stories? Catch up on 5 Eating Tips for a Healthy Heart, How to Know If You’re Having a Heart Attack, 10 Heart Tests Your Doctor Might Order and What They Mean and Getting Heart Healthy with a Mediterranean Diet.

To check your blood pressure, you just switch on a portable monitor and put a cuff on your arm, right? Actually, theres a little more to it than that, says cardiology nurse practitioner Tiffany Luke.

Its important people properly and closely monitor their blood pressure as this is how we determine therapy, Luke explains.

First things first: What is high blood pressure?

High blood pressure, medically known as hypertension, can be caused by weight gain, alcohol and salt intake, older age and/or a family history. According to the CDC, about 75 million American adults have high blood pressure. Referred to as the silent killer, its not a reading that should be taken lightly. Controlling or lowering blood pressure can help prevent or delay high blood pressure complications including heart attack, stroke, atrial fibrillation and chronic kidney disease, says Luke.

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What Are The Different Types Of High Blood Pressure

There are two main types of high blood pressure: primary and secondary high blood pressure.:

  • Primary, or essential, high blood pressure is the most common type of high blood pressure. For most people who get this kind of blood pressure, it develops over time as you get older.
  • Secondary high blood pressure is caused by another medical condition or use of certain medicines. It usually gets better after you treat that condition or stop taking the medicines that are causing it.

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What Happens During A Blood Pressure Test

A blood pressure test includes the following steps:

  • You will sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  • You will rest your arm on a table or other surface, so your arm is level with your heart. You may be asked to roll up your sleeve.
  • Your provider will wrap a blood pressure cuff around your arm. A blood pressure cuff is a strap-like device. It should fit snugly around your upper arm, with the bottom edge placed just above your elbow.
  • Your provider will inflate the blood pressure cuff using a small hand pump or by pressing a button on an automated device.
  • Your provider will measure the pressure manually or with an automated device.
  • If manually, he or she will place a stethoscope over the major artery in your upper arm to listen to the blood flow and pulse as the cuff inflates and deflates.
  • If using an automated device, the blood pressure cuff automatically inflates, deflates, and measures pressure.
  • As the blood pressure cuff inflates, you’ll feel it tighten around your arm.
  • Your provider will then open a valve on the cuff to slowly release air from it. As the cuff deflates, blood pressure will fall.
  • As the pressure falls, a measurement is taken when the sound of blood pulsing is first heard. This is the systolic pressure.
  • As the air continues to be let out, the blood pulsing sound will start to go away. When it completely stops, another measurement is taken. This is the diastolic pressure.
  • This test only takes about one minute to complete.

    What Puts Me At Higher Risk For High Blood Pressure

    BP Calculator

    Your risk for high blood pressure goes up as you get older. Youre also at increased risk for high blood pressure if you:

    • Are African American
    • Are overweight or have obesity
    • Dont get enough physical activity
    • Drink too much alcohol
    • Dont eat a healthy diet
    • Have kidney failure, diabetes, or some types of heart disease

    Learn more about your risk for high blood pressure.

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    How Do I Choose A Blood Pressure Monitor

    The first step in measuring your blood pressure at home is getting a blood pressure monitorone that is accurate, fitted, validated, and works for your lifestyle. These are some things you should consider:

    • Get an arm cuff Devices come in many styles these days, including ones that attach to your arm and ones that attach at your wrist. Wrist cuffs can be attractive because you dont need to roll up your sleeves to use them, but they tend to give inaccurate measurements. Go with an arm cuff instead.

    • Choose the right cuff size The wrong cuff size can lead to inaccurate blood pressure readings. Larger cuffs are better for larger arms, and smaller cuffs are better for smaller arms. Make sure you get a size that fits you.

    • Make sure the device is right for your age Devices are specific to age. Some are meant for older people, and some are meant for children. As an aside, some are even meant for women who are pregnant. Make sure to get one thats right for you.

    • Make sure the device is validated It may be tempting to just buy the cheapest device on the internet, but you may end up with a blood pressure device that isnt approved or validated for taking an accurate measurement. Make sure yours is validated.

    • Newer blood pressure devices with Bluetooth integration allow you to conveniently track your blood pressure measurements through an app. This feature makes it easy to share your records with your doctor , but it usually comes at a price.

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    Eat Healthy High Protein Foods

    A long-term study concluded in 2014 found that people who ate more protein had a lower risk of high blood pressure. For those who ate an average of 100 grams of protein per day, there was a 40 percent lower risk of having high blood pressure than those on a low protein diet .

    Those who also added regular fiber into their diet saw up to a 60 percent reduction of risk.

    However, a high protein diet may not be for everyone. Those with kidney disease may need to use caution. Its best to talk with your doctor.

    Its fairly easy to consume 100 grams of protein daily on most types of diets.

    A 3.5-ounce serving of salmon can have as much as 22 grams of protein, while a 3.5-ounce serving of chicken breast might contain 30 grams of protein.

    With regard to vegetarian options, a half-cup serving of most types of beans contains 7 to 10 grams of protein. Two tablespoons of peanut butter would provide 8 grams .

    These supplements are readily available and have demonstrated promise for lowering blood pressure:

    Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid

    Adding omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids or fish oil to your diet can have many benefits.

    A meta-analysis of fish oil and blood pressure found a mean blood pressure reduction in those with high blood pressure of 4.5 mm Hg systolic and 3.0 mm Hg diastolic .

    Whey protein

    This protein complex derived from milk may have several health benefits in addition to possibly lowering blood pressure .

    Magnesium

    Citrulline

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