What exactly happens when my doctor or nurse takes my blood pressure?

What exactly happens when my doctor or nurse takes my blood pressure?

What exactly happens when my doctor or nurse takes my blood pressure?

Taking your blood pressure is an easy and painless procedure, it is also a rather speedy process and one that is conducted by most healthcare professionals as part of routine examinations. Basically, your doctor or nurse measures your blood pressure with an inflatable cuff that is attached to a small gauge, the cuff wraps around your upper arm. Then, the doctor or nurse will use a stethoscope (an acoustic medical device used for listening to bodily sounds) to listen to your blood moving in your artery. 

Then, your health care professional will inflate the cuff on your arm to raise it to a higher pressure than your systolic pressure, as it tightens around your arm it might be a bit uncomfortable, don’t worry, it doesn’t inflate for long and it certainly shouldn’t pop from the pressure. The cuff is made from a strong and durable fabric to ensure such accidents don’t happen.

Listening to the stethoscope, your doctor will then deflate the cuff and the first sound they hear will be your systolic blood pressure, making a whooshing sound, like water flowing through a hosepipe. When this sound stops, this point will mark your diastolic pressure. Basically, when the heart has a breather, gets oxygen and isn’t pumping blood through the arteries.

That is why your systolic number always comes before the diastolic in the reading.

There are a number of factors that influence your reading, but what it basically means is that the more blood that is pumped through your arteries, the higher the blood pressure. If your artery walls are stiff or narrow they may resist the blood flow and increase the blood pressure. When your artery walls are more flexible and open, your blood pressure is decreased and gives a lower reading.

When should I get my blood pressure checked?

  • If your blood pressure is of a normal and healthy reading, being 120/80, then you need only get it checked bi-annually, or when your doctor recommends.
  • When your blood pressure is bordering on a high reading, known as prehypertension, then it is a good idea to consult with your doctor, he/she may recommend getting it checked annually. But, it is always a good idea to speak to your doctor should your reading be between 120 to 130 systolic and 80 to 89 diastolic.
  • If your blood pressure is low, also known as hypotension, this is generally when your reading is below 90/60, depending on your symptoms, you may need to consult with your doctor immediately about the frequency of future readings and lifestyle changes as well as possible medication for treatment.
  • If your reading is 140/90 to more, you may need to start medication. Consult with your doctor should you have hypertension.
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