How to Take Blood Pressure Readings

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Learn how to take blood pressure readings; it could save your life.

Blood pressure is the pressure against the wall of the artery as the blood is pumped throughout the body. Blood pressure readings change throughout the day. It's the lowest when you sleep and rises when you get up, are excited, nervous, or active. Blood pressure pretty much stays the same when you are sitting still or standing for a while.

Blood pressure readings are given in two numbers, systolic and diastolic. Both numbers are important and written one above the other number. Blood pressure is recorded as a fraction. The top number is the systolic number and the bottom number is the diastolic number.

The systolic is the larger number and written on top and the diastolic number is the smaller number written on the bottom for example, the normal blood pressure reading for an adult is 120/80. When you tell someone their blood pressure you would say 120 over 80.

Hypertension is when you have high blood pressure. The readings would indicate 140/90 or more. High blood pressure is very serious as you could have a stroke, heart attack or kidney problems.

Hypotension is low blood pressure. When you begin to go too far below 120/80, which is normal, it is considered hypotension.

Blood pressure readings indicate that the higher (systolic) number means that the pressure of the heart contracts to pump blood to the body. The lower (diastolic) number means that the pressure of the heart rests between beats. When you take someone's blood pressure the first sound you hear is the systolic reading and when the sound stops, that is when the diastolic reading is determined.

When you take someone's blood pressure, he or she should be sitting quietly and relaxed. Sleeve pushed up or the shirt removed to be able to put the blood pressure cuff on properly.

Things You'll Need

  • blood pressure cuff
  • stethoscope

Explain the procedure to the patient. Tell the patient that the blood pressure readings will take a few minutes and they will feel the cuff tighten and then deflate.

Gather the equipment and make sure they are in working order.

Position the arm. Place their arm on a table or desk to take the blood pressure.

Place cuff above the elbow. Make sure the cuff is one inch above the elbow and fit the arm tightly and snugly. You should be able to put one finger under the cuff for tightness.

Place the stethoscope earpieces into your ears. Place the stethoscope ear disk at the crease of the elbow.

Inflate the cuff. Rapidly inflate the cuff by squeezing the balloon. If you inflate slowly you will get a false reading.

Loosen the valve slowly. Let some air out first and then listen for the first beat. Then look over at the pointer of the dial. This is the first reading, which is your systolic number.

Continue to deflate the cuff slowly. When you hear the heart beat stop, look over at the dial. The pointer will indicate the lower reading, diastolic number.

Record both readings in a fraction. A normal reading is 120/80.

Release the cuff. Then pull down the sleeve and you are done.

Blood pressure readings can be affected for a variety of reasons. You could have cardiovascular disorders, neurological conditions, kidney and urological disorders, obese, and various medications can affect your blood pressure.

While you're here be sure to take a look around at more tips and information about blood pressure readings.

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