Blood Pressure commonly referred to as BP is one of the important routine health assessment checks done on every adult who visits the clinic. Together with Body Temperature, Respiratory rate and Pulse rate, they are called Vital Signs.
What is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is basically the force at which the heart pumps blood through the blood vessels (specifically the arteries). It is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg). The device used for measuring Blood pressure is called Sphygmomanometer.
In the measurement of Blood Pressure, two figures are recorded. For instance, the nurse can record 110/70mmHg. The first one which is sometimes referred to as the upper figure (i.e. the 110) is called Systolic Blood Pressure.
It is the force generated when the heart squeezes blood from the heart. The second or lower figure (i.e. the 70) is referred to as Diastolic Blood Pressure.
It is the force generated when the heart is relaxing after squeezing blood from the heart.
What is the Normal Blood Pressure?
Normal Blood Pressure is a range. Ideally, we should all have a Systolic Blood Pressure level below 120 and Diastolic Blood Pressure below 80. At this level, we have a much lower risk of heart disease or stroke.
Thus, a blood pressure of 120/70mmHg and 100/60mmHg can be considered as normal blood pressure.
Those who have a Systolic Blood Pressure level range from 120 to 139 and Diastolic Blood Pressure range from 80 to 89 are usually not considered as having High Blood Pressure but are cautioned to be taking steps to bring it down or to stop it from rising any further.
This is because they have a higher risk of health problems than persons having blood pressure recording below 120/80mmHg. Blood Pressure measurements within this range are referred to as Prehypertension. Examples include 136/84mmHg and 128/86mmHg.
High Blood Pressure
However, Systolic Blood Pressure above 139 and Diastolic Blood Pressure above 89 are referred to as High Blood Pressure. Hypertension is when the blood pressure is constantly high after two or more checks at the clinic.
Low Blood Pressure
A Systolic blood pressure below 90mmHg and Diastolic Blood Pressure below 60mmHg is usually considered as LOW BLOOD PRESSURE. Usually this is not a cause for concern. Some people have a blood pressure level that is naturally low.
However, some health conditions and medicines can cause one to have low blood pressure.
Seek medical attention if you realise your blood pressure is suddenly much lower than usual or has drop to a point where you feel faint or dizzy.
CHECKING OF BLOOD PRESSURE
Checking of blood pressure is a painless non-invasive procedure with either a manual or digital Sphygmomanometer.
However, one may feel a little tightness on the arm the procedure is being performed on.
During the procedure, one will be asked to sit comfortably in a chair and rest the arm on a table.
The cuff of the measuring device will be attached to the upper arm whiles the pressure is being recorded. It takes about 3 to 5 minutes to complete the whole procedure.
Blood pressure readings can be influenced by a lot of factors. To obtain an accurate blood pressure reading, one must take note of the following.
- You should always ensure that the pressure is not checked on clothing. Pull your sleeve up for easy access to skin of upper arm and for accurate reading.
- When having your blood pressure checked, you should always be seated in a comfortable chair, legs uncrossed with back and arm supported.
- Stress or anxiety can cause significant changes in your blood pressure readings.
- Talking to the health professional or engaged in other activities while checking your blood pressure can cause significant changes in your blood pressure reading.
- To obtain an accurate blood pressure, it is important that you relax and rest quietly for at least 5minutes before a reading is taken.
- Tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco all contain nicotine which will temporarily increase your blood pressure so refrain from smoking at least 30 minutes before having a blood pressure measurement.
- Alcohol and caffeine (coffee, tea, some energy drinks etc) consumption can also cause significant changes in blood pressure level so refrain from it at least 30 minutes before having a blood pressure measurement.
SOME SYMPTOMS THAT MAY SUGGEST A SIGNIFICANT CHANGE IN YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE
The following conditions MAY suggest a significant change in your blood pressure and must therefore seek medical attention.
- Headache; classically at the back of the head when the person wakes up
- Palpitations – feeling your heart is beating hard or fast
- Numbness of toes and fingers
- Nose bleeds
- When you easily get tired
- Vague sense of discomfort
- Ringing in the ear
It is advised that one visit a health centre periodically to have his/her blood pressure checked.
Source: Health Links Gh