High blood pressure often has no signs or symptoms, which is why it’s called the Silent Killer. And the only way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to be tested for it.
A high blood pressure diagnosis by your doctor is usually based on two or more readings, taken on several occasions.
A consistent blood pressure reading of 140/90 mm Hg or higher is considered high blood pressure, another term for hypertension.
Some people experience high blood pressure only when they visit the doctor’s office. This condition is called “white-coat hypertension.” If your doctor suspects this, you may be asked to monitor your blood pressure at home or asked to wear a device called an ambulatory blood pressure monitor. This device is usually worn for 24 hours and can take blood pressure every 30 minutes.
Having Your Blood Pressure Tested is Quick and Easy
Your health professional will normally use the familiar blood pressure measuring device – called a sphygmomanometer (pronounced sfig’-mo-ma-nom-e-ter). Although, some health professionals prefer to use the latest electronic instruments which show the blood pressure reading on a small screen or produces a digital printout.
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and recorded as two numbers systolic pressure “over” diastolic pressure. For example, the doctor or nurse might say “130 over 80” as a blood pressure reading.
Both numbers in a blood pressure reading are important. As we grow older, systolic blood pressure is especially important.
Tips for Having Your Blood Pressure Taken
– Don’t consume stimulants like coffee or alcohol, and don’t smoke cigarettes half an hour before having your blood pressure measured
– Sit for at least five minutes or so before the test with your back supported and your feet flat on the ground. Rest your arm on a table at the level of your heart
– Wear short sleeves or loose fitting upper clothing, so that the cuff can be positioned correctly on your exposed arm
– A full bladder can change your blood pressure reading, so go to the bathroom prior to the reading
– Ask your health professional to take two readings, at least two minutes apart, and average the results
– Ask your health professional to tell you the blood pressure reading in numbers
Learn to Monitor Your Own Blood Pressure at Home
With a little training, anyone can use the familiar blood pressure cuff and a stethoscope at home. Or you can purchase your own electronic monitor that ‘beeps’, or produces a digital readout from most pharmacies.
The automated electronic monitors are very simple to use and very reliable. In fact. they are so accurate that many clinical trials are now actually using the same blood pressure machines that you can buy from pharmacies.
However, we recommend that you get a device that measures your blood pressure with a cuff around the arm.
Don’t buy one that works on the wrist, and definitely avoid finger blood pressure monitors, since they are especially unreliable.
Getting the reading wrong can be enough to raise your blood pressure, so be sure to read the instructions before taking your readings. Your health professional or pharmacist should be able to help you check the device and teach you how to use it. You also may ask for their help in choosing the right one for you.
Monitoring Blood Pressure at Home
One of the greatest benefits of monitoring your blood pressure yourself is that you will have a much better understanding of your condition
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