Knowing blood pressure is critical because high blood pressure increases the risk for stroke and heart disease.
Many people with high blood pressure are not even aware that they have it because it often does not cause symptoms until complications arise.
The blood pressure describes how much pressure occurs in the arteries as the heart pumps blood. When someone has high blood pressure for a long time, the walls of the arteries can weaken and this can result in serious health issues.
Starting at age 20, everyone should have a blood pressure tested once every two years. If any screening is high or borderline, the doctor may recommend more frequent screenings.
Blood pressure can be easily checked anytime a person visits the doctor’ clinic.
This is especially true if someone has risk factors for high blood pressure, such as a family history of the disease or being overweight.
If the doctor feels that high blood pressure could become a problem for a patient, he may suggest to monitor the blood pressure at home on a set schedule and then keep the record of the blood pressure readings.
There are no risks associated with blood pressure testing.
There are no needles or breaking of the skin involved in the process. Some people report slight arm discomfort as the blood pressure cuff tightens, but this this goes away once the healthcare professional deflates the cuff.
On occasion, someone may have tiny red dots at the area of the blood pressure cuff, but these are temporary. Those most likely to experience this issue are those taking anti-platelet medications.
For blood pressure testing, there is no special preparation necessary.
To ensure the most accurate reading, the cuff should go directly on the skin so wearing a short-sleeved shirt is ideal. Since a few things may temporarily elevate the blood pressure, patient should avoid them about one hour before the test and these things include eating, smoking and drinking beverages that contain caffeine. Before the test, it is better to empty the bladder if the patient feels the urge to urinate.
Certain medications may affect the blood pressure, so make sure that the doctor knows about all medications that patient is taking. This is especially true for cold medicines, birth control pills and antidepressants.
For the test, the patient is asked to sit in a chair and support the arm at the level of the heart. The healthcare professional will place the cuff and inflate it. Make sure to not move around while they are taking the blood pressure. The professional will slowly deflate the cuff to determine the blood pressure.
It takes about two minutes to obtain a blood pressure reading.
Immediately following the blood pressure test, the doctor will inform what the numbers are and if there is an issue with the blood pressure.
The top number on a blood pressure reading is the systolic number and this looks at arterial pressure between each beat as the heart contracts. The bottom number is your diastolic number. This looks at arterial pressure when the heart is resting and refilling with blood.
The following describes how doctors assess blood pressure:
- Normal: Systolic number under 120 and diastolic number under 80
- Prehypertension: Systolic number between 120 and 139 and diastolic number between 80 and 89.
- Stage I high blood pressure: Systolic number between 140 and 159 and diastolic number between 90 and 99.
- Stage II high blood pressure: Systolic number over 160 and diastolic number over 100.
- Hypertensive crisis: Systolic number above 180 and diastolic number above 110.