- Blood pressure is an important indicator of health status that can be easily measured at home or at the pharmacy.
- It is “read” by two numbers: systolic pressure (the higher number) and diastolic pressure (the lower number).
- It is important to follow some precautions to measure it correctly, such as relaxing before measuring, supporting your back, etc.
Blood pressure is a very important indicator of health status. It is no accident that during a medical examination it is one of the tests that is never missed, partly because it is simple to perform. So simple that it can even be done at home, having, of course, the proper equipment (which is now inexpensive anyway).
The fact that it is a simple examination does not mean that certain precautions should not be followed. But first let’s understand what blood pressure is, what it indicates and how to measure it correctly.
What is blood pressure
The circulation of blood in our bodies follows the principles of hydraulics: basically, it is a fluid that flows in the arteries and veins, exerting a certain amount of pressure on their walls. Through its measurement, one can, in short, understand how much strain they are under, that is, what effort they are sustaining to “contain” it and, consequently, how much effort the heart is making to pump blood through the system.
What does it indicate
In more detail, blood pressure is measured in “mmHg,” or millimeters of mercury. The complete reading consists of two issues:
– Systolic pressure (the highest number) indicating the pressure value reached by the blood when the heart pumps it
– Diastolic pressure (the lowest number), which indicates the pressure value reached by the blood when the heart is at rest between beats.
Values of 130/80 (for some 120/80) are considered normal, while higher values are descriptive of a state of hypertension and lower values of hypotension.
While it is true that higher values may be indicators of a distressed state of the heart (which, in the most extreme cases, can go as far as cardiac arrest), low values (i.e., hypotension/low voltage) are also not to be overlooked, not least because they may indicate conditions of great exhaustion, clouding of mental abilities, even to the point of fainting or collapse.
How to measure it correctly
As we said, it is also possible to “read” your blood pressure at home with special equipment. To do this correctly, however, it is advisable to follow certain precautions, not least because values that are different from the average, up or down, may alarm unnecessarily. In other words: it may not really be too high or too low pressures but just inaccurately measured pressures.
Let’s see how to do it.
Before every detection, relax for a few minutes, possibly at least five. Measuring blood pressure after even mild exertion such as walking returns higher values than reality.
Support the back
If you measure it on the edge of the bed leaving your back free (but forced to support you), the pressure might be 10 mmHg higher. Sit comfortably in a chair with a backrest, resting your back and feet on the floor.
Do not overlook the position of the arm on which you measure it: if it is lower than the heart, the reading it returns may be as much as 23 mmHg higher. Then place it on a table or surface that keeps it at heart height (no lower, however). The arm where you make the survey is indifferent.
To make sure you don’t make a mistake, don’t sit with your legs crossed or your feet lifted off the ground. If you do, your blood pressure reading may be off by 10 mmHG.
The blood pressure monitor-which is technically called a “sphygmomanometer”-consists of a sleeve/arm tube that fits into the arm and is inflated during measurement. At the opposite end of the tube that comes out of the inner tube and is used to inflate and deflate it is the actual device that is responsible for measuring it. The sleeve/bracelet should be stopped at the height of the biceps so that it is aligned with the heart.
The mamicot should be applied on the arm directly in contact with the skin, without interposing any layer of tissue, which could return readings as much as 40 mmHg higher.
It is important not to over-tighten the sleeve (it is usually held in place by a Velcro closure) because if too much pressure is exerted by the inner tube, the reading tends to be higher.
Well, yes: even having a full bladder can affect the pressure reading. If it is very full it could add up to 33 mmHg of pressure.
Come on: it takes you a matter of seconds to measure it, can you resist the temptation to talk to those close to you? You certainly can, also because doing so may increase it by 15 mmHg. Which may not seem like much but can distinguish a healthy person from one with mild hypertension.
Don’t take anything before
No, you should not drink alcohol or spirits or take food before the measurement. The same applies to coffee or tea. Should we specify that the same applies to drugs? Well, we assume you don’t have any, but just in case, we’ll tell you anyway.