WHD 2022: How to Measure Your Blood Pressure Accurately to Reduce Hypertension
Don't smoke or drink alcohol for at least 30 minutes before taking your measurement. Both activities increase your blood pressure.
If you heard a stampede nearby, what would you do? Wait till the storm catches you? Or would you avoid its passage as best as you can?
More than 1 billion adults are suffering from hypertension worldwide. That's a storm to avoid, right? Especially when 16.7% of deaths in Nigeria are related to hypertension. And 46% of adults living with the condition are unaware.
This is why “World Hypertension Day” is important. First organised by the World Hypertension League (WHL) on May 14th, 2005, it's an annual event for promoting adequate understanding of hypertension and its management.
Understanding blood pressure
When your heart beats, it pumps blood into your arteries. The arteries then carry blood from your heart to other parts of your body.
But the force of your blood against the walls of your arteries can be high or low. And this determines your blood pressure. It's highest when your heart contracts to pump blood and lowest between heartbeats.
However, when this pressure gets too high, the result is hypertension. And it can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and other life-threatening conditions.
You can measure your blood pressure with an instrument called a sphygmomanometer (blood pressure cuff). It measures the amount of pressure in millimetres (mm) of mercury (Hg) when you're at rest and after standing for a few minutes.
But it's vital to use the cuff correctly for an accurate reading.
Keep reading to learn how to measure your blood pressure accurately using a blood pressure cuff.
How to accurately measure your blood pressure
Doctors use different numbers to determine what is considered normal. Regardless, your reading should fall between 90/60 and 120/80 mm Hg.
But if you don't know your number and want to measure your blood pressure at home. Here's how to make sure your reading is accurate:
- Get the right equipment: First, you'll need to purchase a blood pressure cuff. You can find these at most pharmacies or online. It's advisable to get an automatic cuff so you won't have to squeeze it yourself, as that can affect accuracy.
- Learn how to use it: Once you have your cuff, you should familiarise yourself with the instructions. You can either get yourself a manual or digital device. But for a manual device, you'll need to inflate the cuff to a certain level, then wait for your reading. In this case, it's important to not over-inflate the cuff, as this can cause inaccurate readings.
- Sit quietly for 5 minutes before taking your reading: Sitting quietly will help normalise your heart rate, so the monitor can accurately reflect your blood flow in its resting rate. Sit down comfortably with your back against the chair (the same as when taking your pulse). Make sure your feet are flat on the floor and that no part of your body is unsupported (for instance, don’t lean back in the chair).
- Take the measurements: Next, place the blood pressure cuff on your arm. The cuff should be placed about an inch above your elbow. Once the cuff is in place, turn on the machine and begin inflating the cuff. Be sure to inflate the cuff slowly and evenly until you reach the recommended level. You should then wait for the reading.
- Note down the reading and deflate the cuff: Once you have your reading, you can then compare it to the blood pressure chart to see where you fall. If your blood pressure is high, be sure to consult your doctor.
- Take at least two measurements at different times of day: Your body may react differently at different times of day, so it's best not to rely on just one reading for a diagnosis or treatment plan. It's advisable to not take the measurement on the same day you eat salty foods or exercise.
- Get support from someone who can help you correctly use the equipment: This is very important, particularly if you have diabetes or high cholesterol. They'll need to know how to read the gauge and what numbers mean in terms of hypertension risk, so they can take action if they see readings above normal levels.
Important Tip: Don't smoke or drink alcohol for at least 30 minutes before measuring your blood pressure. Both activities increase blood pressure, so you should avoid them for accurate readings.
Every May 17th is a day to remind ourselves that hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a silent killer striking millions of people yearly.
Knowing how to properly measure your blood pressure can keep you safe. Because the more accurate your measurements, the greater your chances of managing hypertension successfully.
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