Hypertension (also known as high blood pressure) is one of the most widely diagnosed health issues in the Western world. For those suffering form this condition, it is important to know how to take blood pressure readings. A byproduct of the human body’s fight-or-flight reflex, it is designed to push more blood out to the muscles in an emergency.
Hypertension is a problem that is created when the body treats the general stresses of day to day living as a constant, low level emergency that never quite ends. Elevated blood pressure and hormones that trigger blood pressure can wear-out the cell walls in the arteries, and eventually lead to arterial problems in the heart, kidney failure and strokes.
However, there’s more to blood pressure than just high blood pressure. Measuring your blood pressure is a key way of regulating this, and there is the issue of low blood pressure, and dystolic blood pressure.
Measuring your blood pressure generally requires a blood pressure cuff. What used to be a piece of equipment only found in the doctor’s office is now something you can buy for a reasonably inexpensively price at the local drug store. Modern blood pressure cuffs are digital – you wrap them around your upper arm, and squeeze the bulb to inflate them; you want to inflate them to just the point where they give you a reading.
Blood pressure measures two numbers, diastolic and systolic pressure. Diastolic pressure is the pressure (in milligrams of mercury) that your arteries experience when relaxed, systolic is the higher pressure that happens when your heart contracts, and the arteries squeeze down to force the blood through your body.
The gold standard of blood pressure is 115/75, and 120/80 is considered normal. People with lower blood pressure than 100/60 tend to have dizziness and fainting spells, and people with blood pressure in excess of 140 for systolic pressure or 90 for diastolic pressure for extended periods of time have hypertension. At systolic pressures in excess of 200, the patient is in grave danger of damage to arterial walls, which most often expresses itself in the form of a stroke. Dystolic blood pressure is the technical term for when your systolic pressure exceeds your diastolic pressure by more than 100 miligrams of mercury, and is typically a symptom of a patient going into shock; it is also one of the physiological side effects of a migraine; equalizing blood pressure is one of the treatments for migraines.
There are a number of factors that can cause blood pressure to spike – the most common is stress. Indeed, the most common causes of anomalous responses when measuring blood pressure is that the patient hasn’t calmed down by the time the blood pressure cuff is inflated. Other factors include licorice (even in candies) and sodium.
For patients with low blood pressure, the condition isn’t life threatening, but it is frustrating. The best way to describe a low blood pressure effect is you go from being just fine to dizzy in a heartbeat, and then need to sit down. Most teenagers going through a growth spurt experience a bout of low blood pressure as their body adapts. This condition is more common in boys rather than girls. They eventually grow out of it as the body learns to self regulate the growing volume of blood vessels needed.
Now that you know how to take blood pressure, you should consider checking your blood pressure regularly and take corrective steps where necessary.