Steps to Measure Your Own Blood Pressure

How To Measure Your Own Blood Pressure

Measuring your own blood pressure has become convenient. You can do it on a coin operated machine in some stores or purchase a device like the one your doctor uses or one of the new electronic, battery-operated devices. The device for measuring blood pressure is called a sphygmomanometer.

Measuring blood pressure is simple. You wrap a band (the cuff) around your arm and stop all blood flow. Then, just below the band, you listen with a stethoscope to an artery and slowly release the band. As the blood starts flowing, the left ventricle or the systolic pressure comes through (the high number). As the lower pressure comes through, the beats stop, and the second sound is steady; that’s the background pressure or the diastolic pressure (the low number).

The cuff is hooked to a pressure-sensing device, which is activated by pumping up the cuff. In the doctor’s office, mercury is used to measure pressure, but many newer electronic devices are calibrated against a standard column of mercury and are almost as accurate. The electronic sphygmomanometer has a sound-sensing device more sensitive and objective than the human ear, so there’s no need for a stethoscope.

It is suggested that you purchase one of the newer battery operated, electronic sphygmomanometers that give you your systolic and diastolic blood pressures and pulse rate in one reading. They are sold in most drugstores, some discount and health stores, through mail order catalogs, and over the Internet. The sphygmomanometer you purchase will have directions on its use.

Here are a few commonalities that apply to all of them:

1. Wrap the cuff snugly but not tightly.
2. Pump the pressure in the cuff sufficiently to stop blood flow; about 200 to 225 millimeters is enough. When you’re back in shape, 150 will be plenty.
3. Let the air drain from the cuff slowly and steadily. Many devices do this automatically.
4. Do not take only one measurement; use several measurements.
5. Always measure with your elbow resting on a table at about the level of your heart, or midchest.

The battery-operated devices don’t always give consistent measurements when used repeatedly in succession due to current surges and charge buildup. Inaccurate readings can also result from low batteries. If you opt for this type, be sure the batteries are good and always allow a few minutes between measurements.