One of the human body’s four major vital signs, blood pressure provides clues about the amount of work the heart is doing to pump blood through the arteries. The other vital signs are body temperature, heart rate and breathing rate.
Blood pressure is measured using two different readings. The first reading is called the systolic pressure. That is the top number in a reading. The second reading is the diastolic number. That one is the second or bottom number.
For example, if your blood pressure is 117/80 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury), the systolic pressure is 117 and the diastolic pressure is 80.
Systolic pressure measures the pressure inside of the artery when the heart is contracting to pump blood. On the other hand, Diastolic pressure is the pressure inside an artery once the heart is resting between beats.
Here are some easy steps to check your blood pressure at home:
1. Buy a blood pressure monitor, an automatic one is simpler to use.
2. Visit your doctor and bring the monitor with you. A nurse or assistant will make sure it is properly calibrated and will teach you how to use it correctly.
3. Determine when to take your blood pressure after discussing with your specialist.
4. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and exercise for at least 30 minutes before measuring your blood pressure.
5. Sit with your feet flat on the floor, rest your back against the chair, and place your arm on a table or other flat surface.
6. After sitting quietly for five minutes, wrap the cuff firmly around the upper part of your bare arm.
7. With a manual monitor, you will have to squeeze the bulb to inflate the cuff, and then deflate the cuff slowly. An automatic monitor will inflate by itself when you press a button.
8. Check the top and bottom readings on the dial or display window. Write down your blood pressure number each time you measure it so you can track it over time.
Understanding your blood pressure reading
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 health conditions you have. If you do have a blood pressure reading of 120/80 or over, wait two to five minutes and recheck.
If it is still high, visit your physician to rule out hypertension. If your blood pressure crosses 180 systolic or goes above 120 diastolic after a repeat reading, seek emergency medical care immediately.