Ways to Measure Blood Pressure

Being considered as one of the body’s major vital signs, our blood pressure provides a hint on how well our heart is working and pumping blood throughout the body.  If blood pressure levels are anything beyond or below normal, this indicates that there must be something wrong with our health.

To keep our blood pressure in check, regular monitoring and measurement is an essential, especially for people who are diagnosed with hypertension or high blood pressure and those who are at high risk for such condition.

Your doctor may suggest for you to secure a portable blood pressure monitor so you can conveniently record your blood pressure readings at home. Although many of us are familiar with how self-measurement goes, there are other ways to measure blood pressure levels.

Manual blood pressure measurement

Traditionally, blood pressure is measured manually through a device known as a sphygmomanometer. This tool involves the use of a blood pressure cuff, an aneroid monitor, and a squeezable balloon, as well as with the help of a stethoscope. The manual approach might be quite difficult to use on your own, which is why it is usually done by another family member or friend at home.

Just as with any other measurement method, the patient has to be relaxed as his reading is being taken. By relaxed, this means that the position of his arm should be straight, with palm facing up, on a level surface.

The cuff is then placed securely on the bicep and inflated by squeezing the balloon. The cuff is inflated up to 20-30 mmHg over one’s normal blood pressure as depicted by the numbers on the aneroid monitor.

Then, the stethoscope is placed on the inside of the elbow crease, where the major veins of the arm are located; and slowly deflating the balloon, the healthcare provider listens through the stethoscope to determine the systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels.

Using an automated blood pressure device

For the most convenient way to measure and record your own blood pressure, the American Heart Association recommends an automatic home blood pressure monitor with a bicep cuff style, as this provides more reliable readings than other monitor types like the wrist and finger ones.

Using an automated blood pressure monitor still requires the patient to relax and sit properly, just as how you would with a manual blood pressure measurement. However, the procedure does not involve inflating and deflating a balloon to get a reading, as the machine automatically does this for you. The patient only needs to press a button to start the reading.

Invasive blood pressure monitoring

While many of us are familiar with the non-invasive methods of blood pressure measurement, there is actually an invasive technique of doing so, which is commonly used in the ICU or operating theaters. Also known as an intra-arterial blood pressure monitoring, invasive blood pressure (IBP) monitoring involves the use of a system with three main parts: the monitor, the measuring apparatus, and the IBP transducer.

In this method, blood pressure is measured by inserting a cannula needle into a suitable artery, which is then connected to an electronic patient monitor. Through this system, blood pressure levels can be constantly monitored and recorded with the highest accuracy. However, patients under this kind of monitoring need to be closely supervised as the invasive approach puts them at risk for several complications, such as bleeding, once the line is disconnected, infection, and vessel damage, among others.

For most patients, a single high reading should not be an immediate cause for alarm, which is why blood pressure levels need to be monitored and recorded at regular intervals to aid doctors to come up with the best interventions to control them. In the end, it is a collaborative effort between the patient and the healthcare team.

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