Checking Your Blood Pressure

Getting a regular blood pressure check is important as it could well save your life! High blood pressure can be a silent killer in that it can cause other problems such as kidney failure, heart attacks and strokes – sometimes without warning and with fatal results.
High blood pressure is often called the “Silent Killer” This is because it often has no warning signs or symptoms.

It is precisely because high blood pressure has no symptoms in the early stages, that you should get it checked often. A gap of around three years is advisable between routine checks if the readings are normal. However if it is raised, your blood pressure should be monitored on a much more frequent basis.

When having a blood pressure reading taken, the patient should sit comfortably in a chair, with their shirt/blouse sleeve rolled up. It is possible to have a blood pressure checked whilst lying down although it’s not ideal.

The best position for having a blood pressure measurement done is sitting. A health care professional usually carries out the blood pressure check, though it can be done by any competent person.

They will begin by wrapping a rubber lined cuff around the upper arm. This ‘cuff’ is part of a pressure-measuring device known as a sphygmomanometer. They used to be filled with mercury and the blood pressure would be taken by the health care professional pumping up the cuff physically.

Nowadays however the sphygmomanometer is electronic and the blood pressure is read by a small computer within the sphygmomanometer. A stethoscope can be used with some models, but nowadays they are rarely used.

Once the cuff has been wrapped around the upper arm, it is inflated so that it temporarily stops the blood flow to the arm. The sounds of the person’s blood rushing through their artery can be heard through a stethoscope. (If one is being used), Two readings are given – (systolic) when your heart is contracting, and (diastolic) when its at rest.

It is important that the person is totally relaxed when their blood pressure reading is being taken, otherwise a false reading can be obtained.

Image: David Gregory & Debbie Marshall, Wellcome Images

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