When you start noticing drastic changes in your vital signs, it is can be an indication of a health problem. It could also be pointing to an urgent need for some lifestyle changes.
One of such is a person’s blood pressure which is usually measured with blood pressure cuffs. But how do you measure your blood pressure without the proper equipment? It is possible to do so, but doing so accurately will be a bit difficult which is why it is always better to just go see a doctor for a test.
Measuring blood pressure
Your blood pressure is simply a measure of the force your blood is exacting on the vessels in your body through which they pass. The reading usually includes two different numbers indicating the pressure the blood exerts as if flows across the arteries.
The first or upper number is referred to as the “Systolic pressure” and is a measure of the pressure within the arteries due to the heart contraction as it pumps blood into it. The other number is known as the “diastolic pressure” this a measure of the pressure within the arteries when the heart is resting in between beats.
The American Heart Association says that a normal reading is any value less than 120/80mm Hg. Any value higher than this indicates that your heart is being overworked as it pumps blood into the vessels. This is known as high blood pressure and is caused by various factors such as
- high cholesterol
- a buildup of plaque inside the arteries
it is important that you take blood pressure readings accurately. This is because high readings do not usually have any noticeable symptoms until things are out of hand and it has become dangerously high.
Although doctors make use of these mechanical or electronic devices to measure a person’s blood pressure, they may also recommend in certain cases that an individual monitors and records his/her blood pressure while at home as well.
This is usually the case when doctors need to know the blood pressure of an individual at a certain period of the day or observe changes as a result of taking medications. This usually requires the use of a machine whose cost might not be covered by insurance in most cases. This is why the methods of carrying out blood pressure tests without making use of an automated machine are quite important.
The manual method of checking blood pressure
When a machine isn’t available, one has to make use of some medical items to measure blood pressure. These includes:
- a stethoscope
- pressure cuff that has a squeezable balloon
- aneroid monitor, with a dial for reading measurements
Sit down and position yourself in a relaxed pose. Rest your arm on a table, secure the pressure cuff on your biceps and squeeze on the balloon in order to increase pressure. Observe the aneroid monitor, make sure the pressure reading increases to about 30mm Hg above the normal reading or 180mm Hg when this is unknown. With the cuff inflated, you then place your stethoscope inside the elbow crease directly under the cuff.
While the balloon slowly deflates, listen with the stethoscope. Notice the number displayed on the monitor. At the point where the first beat hits, this reading is what is called “systolic pressure”.
The diastolic pressure, on the other hand, is the number recorded on the monitor when the sound of the heartbeat stops.
Tips to remember when taking a blood pressure reading at home
- you get accurate readings from a manual cuff when you use the right size. This is important since they come in varying sizes.
- Always ensure that the cuff is sitting directly on bare skin.
- Ensure that you absolutely relax for about 5 minutes prior to a measurement for accuracy.
- Don’t talk while the measurement is being taken.
- Your feet should be placed flat on the floor while taking the measurement and ensure that you are sitting up straight
- It is wrong to check blood pressure inside a cold room.
- The arm should be supported as very close to the heart level.
- Multiple measurements should be carried out at different periods of the day.
- Do not Smoke, exercise, or drink 30 minutes prior to the test
- Empty your bladder before a test as a full bladder can cause incorrect readings.
Measuring blood pressure with Automated machines
Using automated machines that have an upper arm cuff still remains the most convenient way to get accurate blood pressure measurements. The complexity of these machines vary from one to the other and so are the instructions needed to operate each of them. One needs to follow these instructions properly to ensure that it works accurately.
If you are having trouble understanding the instructions, you can visit a pharmacy or see your doctor for clarifications or demonstrations on how to correctly use the machine.
In some cases, the doctor might even request that you bring your personal machine along with you when next you visit in order to confirm the accuracy of results from the machine and compare it to the doctor’s reading.
It is also important that you make use of a top quality machine since inaccurate readings can lead to unnecessary and sometimes harmful medication changes.
You can get a top- quality pressure monitor from many drug stores or check online for options. Speaking to your doctor to get recommendations isn’t a bad idea too.
Using apps to monitor blood pressure
A number of wrist devices and apps claim to be able to give you your blood pressure measurements. But in most cases, these results have been shown to be inaccurate which makes them quite unreliable for monitoring health.
However, there are apps which help to log results and these ones may be really helpful especially if you take tests regularly. By recording your readings on these apps, doctors can easily identify trends from the results and this makes it easy to recommend treatments.
Generally, Blood pressure readings would usually fall into these categories:
|Blood pressure status
||Systolic mm Hg
||Diastolic mm Hg
||120 to 129
|Hypertension/ Stage 1 high blood pressure
||130 to 139
||80 to 89
|Stage 2 high blood pressure
||140 or more
||90 or more
|Hypertensive crisis (seek urgent medical attention)
||180 or more
||120 or more
A reading that falls below 120/80mm Hg can be considered normal. But you should know that what can be described as healthy varies from one individual to the other and will vary based on different factors like:
- Physical activity
- Certain medical conditions
When you are uncertain about what should be your blood pressure level, you should ask your doctor for help. also, when you take a reading at home and you discover it to be higher than normal, you should take another reading after about 5 minutes just to be sure of the accuracy of your initial readings.
A systolic pressure reading that is over 180mm Hg or when you get a diastolic reading that is more than 120mm hg should be considered an emergency case and the individual should seek urgent medical help since it is a clear sign or symptom of a crisis.
Since your blood pressure varies depending on a number of factors, it is thus important that you take multiple readings just to be sure of the accuracy of your test. Tests conducted by yourself are usually not as accurate as the ones performed by a professional especially when you have made use of the manual methods. Automated machines are usually more precise.
You should always consult your doctor whenever you have concerns about your blood pressure readings in order to get expert advice on how to properly manage it. This most times require lifestyle changes and may also include simple things like reducing one’s intake of salt and to exercise regularly.
In some case, medications are recommended to help the situation. Accurate home monitoring is, however, important to help doctors to determine if the recommended dosage should be maintained or changed.