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How To Read Your Blood Pressure

What Exactly Is Blood Pressure

Reading Blood Pressure

“Blood pressure is the pressure that exists within our arteries and drives blood throughout our body,” says Dr. Del Conde Pozzi. At normal levels, your heart creates just enough blood pressure to pump blood to vital organs like your eyes and kidneys without damaging your arteries over time.

If your blood pressure is elevated, though this hinders blood flow over time and can cause organ damage, hardening of your arteries, and plaque buildup within your arteries. These changes narrow and stiffen your arteries, increasing the risk of blood clots, heart disease, stroke, heart attack, and kidney disease, per the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention .

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Common Causes Of Inaccurate Readings

A number of factors can affect your blood pressure and heart rate. If your numbers are unusually high or low, make some adjustments before trying again:

  • Stress. When youre worried, stress hormones temporarily elevate both your blood pressure and heart rate. Avoid stressors before checking your blood pressure at home.
  • Drug and alcohol use. Tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine can affect your numbers, so avoid stimulants and depressants.
  • Other medicines. Talk with your doctor about prescription and over-the-counter medicines that may interfere with an accurate reading.

Once you determine your heart rate and blood pressure, record them in a journal or app. Try taking your pulse and checking your blood pressure around the same time every day to establish a personalized baseline. Its that baseline your doctor will use to help you determine what your numbers mean.

To schedule a comprehensive heart screening, visit UPMCs Heart and Vascular Institute.

Automated Blood Pressure Machines

The easiest and most accurate way to measure the blood pressure at home is to buy an automated blood pressure monitor with an upper arm cuff.

The instructions for use may vary with each machine, and a person should follow them carefully to ensure proper operation. If the instructions are difficult to understand, a local pharmacy or doctors office will be able to show a person how to operate the machine correctly.

Doctors may ask a person to bring their at-home machine to the office during their next visit to test the accuracy compared to the doctors reading.

Using a high-quality machine is important, as inaccurate readings may cause unnecessary or harmful changes in medications or treatments.

A variety of blood pressure monitors are available for purchase online and in most drug stores. A person may wish to speak to a doctor about which brand they recommend.

There are apps and wrist devices that claim to measure the blood pressure, but these results are frequently inaccurate and are not a reliable way to monitor a persons health.

Apps that log blood pressure results may be helpful for people who need to take regular blood pressure tests, however.

Recording a set of readings into these apps may help doctors identify trends in blood pressure and recommend treatments.

Blood pressure readings fall into the following categories:

Blood pressure status

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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.

Investing In A Clinically

Learning to Take an Accurate Blood Pressure Reading

As you shop for a BP monitor, look for a label that says “Recommended by Hypertension Canada.” Hypertension Canada is a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing and controlling hypertension. It helps in the clinical validation of the accuracy of BP devices for home monitoring.

You can ask your doctor to help you pick the best blood pressure monitor in Canada, too. Your healthcare provider will also help you measure your arm so you can select the right cuff size. Your physician can also check your BP monitor every year to ensure it remains accurate.

Lastly, check if your secondary health insurance covers medical devices. Your supplemental health plans may offer some form of coverage for BP monitors.

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Insights About Your Blood Pressure Results

The result of your blood pressure measurement can determine your next steps. If your blood pressure reading is under 120/80 or is within target levels according to your healthcare provider, that is great news. You might want to think about some things you may have been doing to achieve that good result, such as increasing physical activity levels, limiting sodium intake, or following instructions for taking any blood pressure medications.

If, on the other hand, your blood pressure is a little higher than target, or is in the hypertensive range or has been creeping up, it might be time to think about why that happened. Possible reasons can include having caffeine just before measuring blood pressure, skipping a few workouts, or missing a dose of medication. It is also important to check whether you took your blood pressure properly.

What Causes High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is something we see in patients of all ages. It is often linked to inactivity, poor diet and obesity. But in as many as 95 percent of reported cases, we aren’t able to determine an underlying cause. Family history, genetics, age and ethnicity can also all play a role. So can some drugs that are taken for other conditions, but don’t stop taking any prescribed medication without talking to your doctor.

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How Can I Measure My Blood Pressure At Home

Talk with your health care team about regularly measuring your blood pressure at home, also called self-measured blood pressure monitoring.

SMBP means you regularly use a personal blood pressure measurement device away from a doctors office or hospitalusually at home. These blood pressure monitors are easy and safe to use. A health care team member can show you how to use one if you need help.

Evidence shows that people with high blood pressure are more likely to lower their blood pressure if they use SMBP combined with support from their health care team than if they dont use SMBP.3

Use these additional tips for SMBP:4

  • Use a blood pressure log pdf icon to record your blood pressure measurements.
  • Take your blood pressure at the same time every day.
  • Take at least two readings, 1 or 2 minutes apart.

What Your Blood Pressure Reading Means

How to Read Your Own Blood Pressure

Blood pressure readings include two numbers. The top number is called the systolic blood pressure and it changes with every heartbeat, says Dr. Del Conde. When the heart contracts and pumps extra blood into the circulatory system, the pressure increases. This increased pressure corresponds to the top number, or the systolic blood pressure.

The bottom number is called the diastolic blood pressure. When the heart is at rest and not contracting, the pressure that exists within the system is called the diastolic pressure, says Dr. Del Conde.

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What Does High Blood Pressure Feel Like

High blood pressure often doesn’t have any symptoms, so you usually don’t feel it.

Hypertension is usually diagnosed by a health care professional during a routine checkup. The average person should get a blood pressure reading at least once a year. As a cardiologist, I think its important for everyone to know their numbers. That means knowing what your blood pressure is. And it also means knowing your blood sugar level, cholesterol and body mass index. When you know your numbers, you can work with your doctor to make a plan to reduce any risks.

Blood pressure is even more important to pay attention to, though, if you have a close relative with hypertension or other risk factors. And know that if your blood pressure is extremely high, you may have unusually severe headaches, chest pain, difficulty breathing or get easily worn out by workouts. If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor right away.

How Do I Take My Bp

You can take your BP at home with a digital BP monitor. Read the instructions that came with your BP monitor. The monitor comes with an adjustable cuff. Ask your healthcare provider if your cuff is the correct size.

  • Do not eat, drink, smoke, or exercise for 30 minutes before you take your BP.
  • Rest quietly for 5 minutes before you take your BP.
  • Sit with your feet flat on the floor and your back against a chair.
  • Extend your arm and support it on a flat surface. Your arm should be at the same level as your heart.
  • Make sure all of the air is out of the cuff. Place the BP cuff against your bare skin about 1 inch above your elbow. Wrap the cuff snugly around your arm. The BP reading may not be correct if the cuff is too loose.
  • If you are using a wrist cuff, wrap the cuff snugly around your wrist. Hold your wrist at the same level as your heart.
  • Turn on the BP monitor and follow the directions.
  • Write down your BP, the date, the time, and which arm you used to take the BP. Take your BP 2 times and write down both readings. Use the same arm each time. These BP readings can be 1 minute apart.

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When To Call A Doctor

A normal systolic blood pressure is less than 120 mmHg and a normal diastolic blood pressure is less than 80 mmHg, says Dr. Del Conde. So, your ideal blood pressure should be under 120/80 mmHg.

The CDC defines elevated blood pressure as 120/80 mmHg to 129/80 mmHg, stage 1 hypertension as greater than or equal to 130/80 mmHg and stage 2 hypertension as greater than or equal to 140/90 mmHg. Dr. Del Conde says to call your doctor if your blood pressure consistently reads higher than 140/90 mmHg.

Before Checking Your Blood Pressure

How to read your blood pressure and understand what it ...
  • Find a quiet place to check your blood pressure. You will need to listen for your heartbeat.
  • Make sure that you are comfortable and relaxed with a recently emptied bladder .
  • Roll up the sleeve on your arm or remove any tight-sleeved clothing.
  • Rest in a chair next to a table for 5 to 10 minutes. Your arm should rest comfortably at heart level. Sit up straight with your back against the chair, legs uncrossed. Rest your forearm on the table with the palm of your hand facing up.

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Check Your Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the force or pressure exerted in the arteries by the blood as it is pumped around the body by the heart. It is recorded as two measurements:

  • Systolic pressure: pressure in the arteries during the period of the heart’s contraction
  • Diastolic pressure: pressure in the arteries when the heart is relaxed, between heartbeats

A doctor or nurse can listen to your blood pressure by placing a stethoscope on your artery and pumping up a cuff placed around your arm. The blood pressure is read on a special meter called a sphygmomanometer.

Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury , which refers to how high the pressure in the arteries can raise a column of mercury in the sphygmomanometer.

Meditate And Practice Om Chanting

Meditation, deep breaths and yoga have more profound effects than you can imagine.

Consider it a personal experience, but deep breaths and chanting om is a solution. It is a way to control high BP immediately.

High blood pressure increases heart rate and causes erratic breathing.

At the time of panic, all you need to focus on is your breathing.

Many times, situations go out of hand due to less oxygen supply in the body.

So, focus more on internal strength even at those critical seconds. Try to listen to calm music.

You need to stay calm for those brief moments and not give up on yourself.

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What Are The Worst Foods For Blood Pressure

Foods high in salt, sugar, and cholesterol are some of your blood pressure’s worst enemies. However, they can do more damage than just making your BP skyrocket. They may also affect life expectancy, considering that they can contribute to obesity.

Please steer clear of canned tomato products, as these are usually salted. That’s why you’d want to go with pure, unsalted tomato juice.

Processed meats, like cured deli, typically contain high amounts of salt, sugar, or both. You should also avoid frozen pizza, which contains processed and preserved ingredients.

What Numbers Mean High Blood Pressure What Numbers Mean Normal Blood Pressure

How to: Measure Blood Pressure

Normal blood pressure is at or under 120 over 80.

In November 2017, blood pressure guidelines were modified. Any blood pressure measurement at or above 130 over 80 is now considered high. And thats what we in the medical community call hypertension. These numbers are down from the old recommendation of 140 over 90.

In the past, many people in the United States were considered prehypertension. The new recommendations get rid of that category, and now almost half of U.S. adults fall into the category of hypertension. That could seem shocking. But patients who are in this category should already be discussing their blood pressure numbers with their primary care doctor. If they arent, now is a good time to connect with their medical provider and come up with a plan for treatment.

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How Often Should You Measure Blood Pressure

If you have normal blood pressure, and your doctor thinks you’re at a low risk for developing hypertension, you’ll likely only get your blood pressure measured once a year, at a routine check-up.

However, if you’re at risk or have hypertension, your doctor may recommend that you check blood pressure at home.

If you have a clinician-approved at-home blood pressure measuring kit, you should measure your blood pressure twice in the morning and twice in the evening, waiting a minute between readings, says Cohen.

Additionally, she says it’s important to calmly wait five minutes before measuring your blood pressure, as it can affect the accuracy of your reading.

“If you’re checking your blood pressure when you’re exercising, moving around, or without taking that five minute break, then it’s just not a useful blood pressure,” Cohen says.

Cohen recommends using a blood pressure measuring device from an accredited source, such as Validate BP. Devices are independently reviewed by experts associated with the American Heart Association to see which ones provide the best, clinically accurate results.

How To Read Your Blood Pressure And Understand What It Means For You

  • Blood pressure readings are a measurement of two numbers: systolic and diastolic.
  • These two numbers can tell you if your blood pressure is low, normal, elevated, high, or if youre having a hypertensive crisis .
  • Heres how to read your blood pressure measurements and understand what it means for you.
  • This article was medically reviewed by John Osborne, MD, PhD, and the Director of Cardiology for Dallas-based State of the Heart Cardiology.
  • This story is a part of Insiders guide to High Blood Pressure.

High blood pressure is known as the silent killer because it usually doesnt come with symptoms, and it can be dangerous if left untreated.

The only way to know your blood pressure and keep track of your heart health is through accurate readings and frequent measurements.

Heres what you need to know about your blood pressure reading and what it means for you.

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Which Number Is More Important

Typically, more attention is given to systolic blood pressure as a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease for people over 50. In most people, systolic blood pressure rises steadily with age due to the increasing stiffness of large arteries, long-term buildup of plaque and an increased incidence of cardiac and vascular disease.

However, either an elevated systolic or an elevated diastolic blood pressure reading may be used to make a diagnosis of high blood pressure. According to recent studies, the risk of death from ischemic heart disease and stroke doubles with every 20 mm Hg systolic or 10 mm Hg diastolic increase among people from age 40 to 89.

Blood Pressure Thats Too Low

Get to Know Your Blood Pressure

Low blood pressure is known as hypotension. In adults, a blood pressure reading of 90/60 mm Hg or below is often considered hypotension. This can be dangerous because blood pressure that is too low doesnt supply your body and heart with enough oxygenated blood.

Some potential causes of hypotension can include:

  • heart problems

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How Do Health Care Professionals Measure My Blood Pressure

First, a health care professional wraps an inflatable cuff around your arm. The health care professional then inflates the cuff, which gently tightens on your arm. The cuff has a gauge on it that will measure your blood pressure.

The health care professional will slowly let air out of the cuff while listening to your pulse with a stethoscope and watching the gauge. This process is quick and painless. If using a digital or automatic blood pressure cuff, the health care professional will not need to use a stethoscope.

The gauge uses a unit of measurement called millimeters of mercury to measure the pressure in your blood vessels.

If you have high blood pressure, talk to your health care team about steps to take to control your blood pressure to lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.

Use this list of questions to ask your health care team pdf icon to help you manage your blood pressure.

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