Blood Pressure Measurement Techniques
by Contributing Writer
According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure that isn't treated can lead to heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure and heart failure. The only way to know if your blood pressure is high is to have it checked by your health care provider or monitor it at home.
At the Clinic
In clinical settings, blood pressure is normally measured using a sphygmomanometer, or a blood pressure monitor. The instrument consists of a blood pressure cuff, a pump and a gauge. When blood pressure is checked by a health care professional, the cuff gets tightly wrapped around the patient's upper arm. Blood pressure monitors with extra small or large cuffs are available to accommodate different arm sizes.
The cuff is then inflated by closing a valve and squeezing a pump. This momentarily stops the blood flow to the arm. A stethoscope is then placed on the elbow. The health care provider slowly opens the valve, which slowly releases air from the arm cuff. Blood will then start flowing through the arm, creating a pulsing sound. The health care provider will listen for this sound with a stethoscope and record the number read on the gauge. This number is called the systolic blood pressure and is a measure of the pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts. When the pulsing sound stops, the health care provider will record the diastolic blood pressure, or the pressure of the blood in the arteries between heart beats. The ratio of the systolic number to the diastolic number is the blood pressure reading.
Taking Blood Pressure at Home
If you have high blood pressure or are at risk for developing it, your physician may suggest that you take your own blood pressure using a digital monitor or an aneroid monitor designed for home use. Digital blood pressure machines have automatic or manual cuffs and display results on a screen. The results of aneroid monitors are read by reading a gauge with a pointer.
Home blood pressure monitors are available at drugstores and medical supply stores. Before relying on the results of a home blood pressure monitor, ask your health care provider for directions on how to use it. Just like at the doctor's office, a home blood pressure monitor will record the blood pressure in your arteries when the heart muscle contracts and when it is at rest. By regularly monitoring your blood pressure at home and keeping a record of the results, you will be able to tell how well you are managing your blood pressure at home.