||Blood Pressure Monitors
Medical professionals recommend checking
your blood pressure at least annually and
more often if you have related medical problems.
Accurately measuring your blood pressure
is best done by a qualified medical professional,
but with proper equipment, you can check
it yourself at home as often as you want.
More frequent checks may help your doctor
diagnose emerging medical problems (especially
What your blood pressure (BP)
The heart uses pressure to pump
the arteries and veins of your
amount of pressure in your veins
at two points:
- when your heart is pumping (called the systolic
- when your heart is at rest (called the diastolic
A number is assigned that represents the
systolic (pumping) over the diastolic pressure
(resting) pressure (for example, 120/80).
When your BP is out of range
Generally,blood pressure increases with age
(your doctor can tell you what your normal
BP range should be). Doctors also look at
the range of numbers in your BP and whether
and how fast it is changing. For instance,
if a person's BP should be 120/80 and it
is 190/100, he is experiencing high blood
pressure. If it is only 80/50, it is considered
low. Furthermore, the lower number (diastolic)
can be more telling than the upper one (systolic).
Systolic pressure rises when a person is
excited or exercising, but the lower number
(diastolic) should be largely unaffected
because it represents the amount of pressure
when the heart is idle. High diastolic pressure
could lead to a stroke or heart attack. After
adjusting for external factors, your blood
pressure should be reasonably constant.
Taking your BP at home
The best way to read your blood pressure
is to have it done by a medical professional
with a sphygmomanometer (the real name of
a BP cuff that wraps around your upper arm
and a stethoscope for listening for a heartbeat
below the cuff). Using a sphygmomanometer
on oneself is nearly impossible to do correctly,
though some "D-ring" models are
designed for exactly that.
The better alternative, if you want to take
your BP alone, is to buy an automated BP
cuff. These automated cuffs have a pump that
inflates the cuff with air, automatically
deflates the cuff as it measures your BP,
and then displays the results on a large
readout. Two nice features of automatic cuffs:
many can store a history of your readings
to show a trend and can also tell you your
heart rate (pulse). Automatic BP cuffs can
give reasonably accurate readings, but there
are some cautions. Certain medical conditions
can cause inaccurate readings (ask your doctor)
and the automatic BP cuffs should be checked
against a real sphygmomanometer for accuracy
at least annually.
Finally, it is important that
your BP cuff
be sized right for your arm.
If your arm
size is too slim or large, the
read correctly or even at all.
people may find a child's cuff
than the normal adult cuff.