How to check your blood pressure by yourself

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One of the four main vital signs is blood pressure, the others being heart rate, breathing rate and body temperature. These vital signs can be helpful in providing a general idea of how well the body and its organs function.

Changes in the vital signs of a person may signify an underlying health condition or a need to change lifestyle.

Usually, blood pressure is measured by means of a blood pressure cuff. People who don’t have the right equipment will still want to check their blood pressure but it’s hard to do it accurately. In most cases, purchasing a blood pressure monitor is safer, or visiting a doctor or pharmacy for checking.

Measuring the blood pressure

A man measuring his blood pressure
Blood pressure may reflect a person’s state of health.

Blood pressure determines how much stress the blood puts on the body’s blood vessels. A reading of blood pressure includes two numbers which show the pressure inside the arteries as the blood flows through the body.

The upper figure, called the systolic pressure, calculates the pressure inside the arteries, as the blood pumping heart contracts. The lower number is the pressure inside the artery, called the diastolic pressure, when the heart rests between each beat.

Normal blood pressure is not inferior to 120/80 mm Hg, according to the American Heart Association. If those numbers surpass 120/80 mm Hg, it is also an sign that the heart works too hard to pump blood into the arteries.

Many factors can cause high blood pressure including:

Precise measurements of blood pressure are significant, because high blood pressure cannot cause any symptoms unless it is excessively high.

Doctors use either computer or mechanical equipment in a clinic to calculate the blood pressure. They can suggest monitoring and recording blood pressure at home in some cases.

Blood pressure control at home typically involves a machine which insurance may or may not cover. Reasons a doctor may suggest blood pressure monitoring at home include knowing the blood pressure at certain times of the day or after taking certain medications.

Blood pressure can therefore be taken without using a tool.

Checking the blood pressure manually

A stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, and aneroid monitor are required in order to measure blood pressure accurately.
A stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, and aneroid monitor are required in order to measure blood pressure accurately.

A person may require several medical products to test the blood pressure without the assistance of an automated machine. These are:

  • a stethoscope
  • a blood pressure cuff with a squeezable balloon
  • an aneroid monitor, which has a numbered dial to read measurements

To manually test the blood pressure, sit down on a table in a comfortable position with your arm at rest. Secure the bicep cuff and pinch the ballon to raise the pressure.

Monitor the aneroid monitor and increasing the pressure over normal blood pressure to around 30 mm Hg, or to 180 mm Hg if this is not understood. Once inflated with the cuff, through the stethoscope under the cuff just inside the crease of the elbow.

Deflate the balloon gradually, then listen through the stethoscope. Note the number on the aneroid display, when the first beats strike. It is the strain from the systolic.

Continue to listen until the steady heartbeat sound ceases, and record the aneroid display number again. This is the strain of diastolicity. Those two figures are a test of the blood pressure.

It is important to remember, when monitoring blood pressure at home:

  • Manual cuffs come in different sizes depending on the size of the arm. Using the right size ensures the most accurate reading.
  • The cuff should always sit directly on the bare skin.
  • Take a few deep breaths and relax for up to 5 minutes before measuring blood pressure.
  • Avoid talking during the test.
  • Place the feet flat on the floor and sit up straight while measuring the blood pressure.
  • Avoid checking blood pressure in a cold room.
  • Support the arm as close to heart level as possible.
  • Measure the blood pressure at a few different times during the day.
  • Avoid smoking, drinking, and exercise for 30 minutes before taking blood pressure.
  • Empty the bladder before taking a blood pressure test. A full bladder may give an incorrect blood pressure reading.

Automated blood pressure machines

Buying an automatic blood pressure monitor with an upper arm cuff is the simplest and most reliable way to calculate the blood pressure at home.

Use instructions that differ with each computer, and a individual should be carefully following them to ensure proper operation. If the instructions are difficult to understand, a nearby pharmacy or physician’s office may teach a person how to use the machine properly.

Doctors may ask a person to bring their home machine to the office during their next visit, in order to check the accuracy compared to the reading by the doctor.

It is important to use a high-quality instrument, since incorrect readings can cause unwanted or harmful changes in drugs or treatments.

A variety of blood pressure monitoring products are available for online purchase and in most drug stores. A individual may want to speak to a doctor about which brand they are recommending.

Using blood pressure apps

Blood pressure apps may not provide reliable measurements.
Blood pressure apps may not provide reliable measurements.

There are apps and wrist devices that claim to calculate blood pressure but these tests are often unreliable and are not a reliable way of measuring the health of a individual.

However, applications that monitor blood pressure readings can be useful for people having to take daily blood pressure tests.

Recording a series of readings into such systems will help doctors identify blood pressure levels and prescribe therapies.

Results

Blood pressure readings fall into the following categories:

Blood pressure statusSystolic mm HgDiastolic mm Hg
NormalLess than 120Less than 80
Elevated120–129Less than 80
Stage 1 high blood pressure (hypertension)130–13980–89
Stage 2 high blood pressure140 or higher90 or higher
Hypertensive crisis (seek immediate medical attention)180 or higher120 or higher

Anything below 120/80 mm Hg is considered normal blood pressure. A good number can, however, vary from person to person.

The numbers may change based on factors such as:

  • age
  • weight
  • sex
  • physical activity
  • underlying medical conditions

Anybody unsure about their goal blood pressure should receive advice from a doctor.

If a reading at home is higher than average, it is critical that you do another reading 5 minutes later to make sure it is correct.

Someone with a systolic pressure above 180 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure above 120 mm Hg will seek emergency medical attention, since this is a sign of a hypertensive crisis.

Outlook

Blood pressure can vary depending on a variety of factors, therefore it is important to take more than one reading for accuracy.

Tests taken at home might not be as precise as those given at the doctor’s office, but automatic testing of blood pressure is often just as effective.

Everyone worried about their blood pressure levels should speak with a doctor to monitor and treat their blood pressure in the best possible way.

Changes in lifestyle are always required, which can include things like reducing salt consumption which regular exercise.

For certain cases medicine can also be prescribed. In-house blood pressure monitoring will help a doctor decide if the dosage is appropriate or needs to adjust.

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