Tips To Measure Your Blood Pressure Correctly
To determine whether you have hypertension, a medical professional will take a blood pressure reading. How you prepare for the test, the position of your arm, and other factors can change a blood pressure reading by 10% or more. That could be enough to hide high blood pressure, start you on a drug you don’t really need, or lead your doctor to incorrectly adjust your medications.
National and international guidelines offer specific instructions for measuring blood pressure. If a doctor, nurse, or medical assistant isn’t doing it right, don’t hesitate to ask him or her to get with the guidelines.
Here’s what you can do to ensure a correct reading:
Don’t drink a caffeinated beverage or smoke during the 30 minutes before the test.
Sit quietly for five minutes before the test begins.
During the measurement, sit in a chair with your feet on the floor and your arm supported so your elbow is at about heart level.
The inflatable part of the cuff should completely cover at least 80% of your upper arm, and the cuff should be placed on bare skin, not over a shirt.
Don’t talk during the measurement.
Have your blood pressure measured twice, with a brief break in between. If the readings are different by 5 points or more, have it done a third time.
For more on getting your blood pressure under control, buy Controlling Your Blood Pressure, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
When To Check Blood Pressure
- If your blood pressure is normal , get it checked every year, or more often as your doctor suggests.
- If your blood pressure is elevated — a systolic blood pressure between 120 and 129 or diastolic blood pressure of less than 80 — your doctor will probably want to check it every 3-6 months. They will probably recommend lifestyle changes like more exercise and a better diet.
- If you have stage 1 hypertension — 130-139 over 89-90 — the doctor might suggest lifestyle changes and see you again in 3-6 months. Or they could tell you to make the changes and give you medication, then recheck your condition in a month. It depends on what other health conditions or risk factors you have.
- If you have stage 2 hypertension — 140/90 or higher — youâll likely get medication. You’ll also need to make lifestyle changes and see the doctor again in a month.
How Does The Dash Diet Lower Blood Pressure And Promote Weight Loss
The DASH diet is rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, and fiber and has a low content of sodium and saturated fat. Adding more of these nutrients improve the electrolyte balance in the body, allowing it to excrete an excess fluid that contributes to high blood pressure. These nutrients also promote relaxation of the blood vessels, reducing blood pressure. These nutrients are often deficient in overweight and obese people, so the DASH diet can help correct those deficiencies and help people feel better. By itself, some people may lose weight with the DASH diet, but most will need to add exercise or further reduce carbohydrates to see big weight losses. The good news for people with diabetes, prediabetes, or insulin resistance is that the DASH diet does improve insulin sensitivity.
The DASH diet guidelines from the original research study specified two levels of sodium reduction.
- The DASH diet phase 1 limited sodium to 2300mg, or about 1 teaspoon per day.
- The DASH diet phase 2 further reduced sodium to 1500mg.
To reach the goal of phase 2, the person should avoid all table salt and avoid adding any salt to cooking. We tend to get more than the recommended amount of sodium when we eat packaged or processed foods or when eating or dining out. Salt is the major source of sodium in the diet, and we can usually refer to the two words interchangeably unless we are discussing specific biochemical processes.
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What Is High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is blood pressure that is higher than normal. Your blood pressure changes throughout the day based on your activities. Having blood pressure measures consistently above normal may result in a diagnosis of high blood pressure .
Your health care team can diagnose high blood pressure and make treatment decisions by reviewing your systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels and comparing them to levels found in certain guidelines.
The guidelines used to diagnose high blood pressure may differ from health care professional to health care professional:
- Some health care professionals diagnose patients with high blood pressure if their blood pressure is consistently 140/90 mm Hg or higher.2 This limit is based on a guideline released in 2003, as seen in the table below.
- Other health care professionals diagnose patients with high blood pressure if their blood pressure is consistently 130/80 mm Hg or higher.1 This limit is based on a guideline released in 2017, as seen in the table below.
|systolic: 130 mm Hg or higherdiastolic: 80 mm Hg or higher|
If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, talk with your health care team about your blood pressure levels and how these levels affect your treatment plan.
Can Exercise Help Lower High Blood Pressure
Exercise and physical activity help lower blood pressure by helping you lose weight and keeping your heart and blood vessels in good condition.
Weight loss achieved through diet and exercise helps control factors such as blood sugar, and other complications of obesity. Avoiding these complications helps lower blood pressure and prevent high blood pressure.
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New Aha Recommendations For Blood Pressure Measurement
Am Fam Physician. 2005 Oct 1 72:1391-1398.
Diagnosis and treatment of hypertension depend on accurate measurement of auscultatory blood pressure. The lowering of target blood pressure for patients with diabetes or renal disease has made detection of small differences more important. However, blood pressure reading is one of the most inaccurately performed measurements in clinical medicine.
True blood pressure is defined as the average level over a prolonged duration. Thus, in-clinic blood pressure measurement, which generally makes no allowance for beat-to-beat variability, can be a poor estimation and may fail to catch high blood pressure that occurs only outside the clinic setting. In addition, faulty methods and the white coat effect may lead to misdiagnosis of hypertension in normotensive patients.
To increase accuracy of clinic readings, and in recognition of major changes over the past 10 years , the American Heart Association has published a new set of recommendations for the measurement of blood pressure. The AHA scientific statement, written by Pickering and colleagues, was first published in the January 2005 issue of Hypertension and also appears in the February 8, 2005, issue ofCirculation. It can be accessed online at. A summary of the AHA scientific statement follows.
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.
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What Are The Symptoms Of High Blood Pressure
The only way you can know for sure if you have high blood pressure is by having a nurse or doctor measure it. Monitoring your blood pressure at home also helps keep your blood pressure in check. Most often, high blood pressure is “silent,” meaning it has no other signs to warn you, according to the CDC.
What Procedures And Tests Diagnose Low Blood Pressure
In some people, particularly relatively healthy ones, symptoms of weakness, dizziness, and fainting raise the suspicion of low blood pressure. In others, an event often associated with low blood pressure, for example, a heart attack, has occurred to cause the symptoms.
Measuring blood pressure in both the lying and standing positions usually is the first step in diagnosing low blood pressure. In patients with symptomatic low blood pressure, there often is a marked drop in blood pressure upon standing, and patients may even develop orthostatic symptoms. The heart rate often increases. The goal is to identify the cause of the low blood pressure. Sometimes the causes are readily apparent . At other times, the cause may be identified by testing:
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What Do Blood Pressure Readings Mean
The American Heart Association defines normal blood pressure as less than 120/80. Elevated blood pressure ranges between 120/80 and 129/80, and high blood pressure is 130/80 and higher. In pregnancy, normal blood pressure should be below 120/80.
If your blood pressure reaches the high range, you should see your doctor about lifestyle changes, and possibly medication especially if you have other risk factors, such as diabetes or heart disease.
High blood pressure may indicate an emergency situation. If this high blood pressure is associated with chest pain, shortness of breath, headache, dizziness, or back or abdominal pain, seek medical care immediately. If you are experiencing no associated symptoms with a high blood pressure reading such as this, re-check it again within a few minutes and contact your doctor or go to an emergency room if it is still high.
If your blood pressure is lower than about 100/60 you may have low blood pressure, depending on the associated symptoms. If you are unsure, check with your doctor.
Normal And Abnormal Blood Pressure Levels For Men Over 50
If you are over 50, the recommendation of how far you should keep your blood pressure off is usually closely dependent on certain health conditions that you have.
According to an article published on the official site of the Department of Health and Human Services, the level of blood pressure that is higher than 140/90 mm Hg in men over 50 can be categorized into hypertension.
So, make sure to control the systolic and diastolic numbers lower than 140 /90! However, your doctor may ask you to keep your blood pressure much lower than 140 /90 if you have certain health problem. For more advice, talk with your doctor!
Update: New guidelines from most Health Organizations announced that 130/80 mm HG is now categorized into hypertension for all adults younger than age 65 . This suggests, there would be more men over 50 categorized as having hypertension.
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Why Do I Need To Take My Bp
You may not have any signs or symptoms of high BP. You may need to take your BP regularly to know how often your BP is high. High BP increases your risk for a stroke, heart attack, or kidney disease. You may need to take medicine to keep your BP at a normal level. Write down and keep a log of your BP. Your healthcare provider can use the BP results in your log to see if your BP medicines are working.
What Are The Different Blood Pressure Categories
Blood pressure can be categorized into five different types, namely:
Normal: Blood pressure below 120/80 mm Hg is considered to be normal.
Elevated: When blood pressure readings consistently range from 120 to 129 systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic, it is known as elevated blood pressure. People with elevated blood pressure are at risk of high blood pressure unless steps are taken to control it.
Hypertension stage I: In this condition, blood pressure readings consistently range from 130 to 139 systolic or 80 to 89 mm Hg diastolic. Doctors may prescribe blood pressure medications and some lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of heart diseases and stroke.
Hypertension stage II: In this condition, blood pressure readings consistently range from 140/90 mm Hg or higher. The doctors may prescribe a combination of both medications and lifestyle changes.
Hypertensive crisis: This is the most critical condition and requires emergency medical attention. In this condition, the blood pressure suddenly exceeds 180/120 mm Hg. Contact the physician immediately if the following symptoms are experienced:
- Difficulty speaking
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What Is High Blood Pressure What Is Normal Blood Pressure
- High blood pressure is defined as high pressure in the arteries, which are the vessels that carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
- Blood pressure readings are given as two numbers:
- The systolic blood pressure equals the pressure in the arteries as the heart contracts.
- The diastolic pressure is the pressure in the arteries as the heart relaxes.
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.
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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.
Digital Blood Pressure Monitors
Digital blood pressure monitors are often used on the wrist, but they can also be placed on the finger or upper arm and are activated simply by pressing a button. They read the blood pressure automatically based on variations in the volume of blood in the arteries. When taking blood pressure measurements on the wrist, it’s important to keep the hand level with the heart. Otherwise it can affect the readings.
Digital meters can sometimes be inaccurate and produce unreliable readings anyway especially in people with certain heart rhythm problems or arteries that have hardened due to arteriosclerosis.
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Average Blood Pressure By Age
As you get older, your blood vessels tend to become stiffer and plaque can build up in them, which can raise your blood pressure. If your blood pressure becomes too high, you’re at a greater risk for heart disease, strokes, and more.
In 2015, the average blood pressure worldwide was 127/79 mm Hg in men, and 122/77 mm Hg in women, according to a study analysis published in Lancet.
When researchers for the National Center for Health Statistics looked at average blood pressure in U.S. adults between 2001 and 2008, the average reading was 122/71 mm Hg. The breakout was 124/72 mm Hg for men, and 121/70 mm Hg in women. It rose by age and was significantly higher in Black people.
The researchers found the following breakdown by age, sex, and race or ethnicity:
|Blood Pressure by Age|
As the population ages and life expectancy increases, high blood pressure is becoming more common.