BLOOD PRESSURE TIPS AND INFORMATION

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Introduction

The following information is provided to help you understand about blood pressure and why its measurement can be really important. Before we dive in, let's quickly review the three golden rules of taking your own blood pressure.

The Golden Rules

1) Always consult with a professionally qualified medical practitioner/doctor.
Taking your own blood pressure should only be done to compliment any advice or treatment given by your doctor. It is no substitute to the service your doctor can supply and may not be as accurate as the readings they may take. If at any time you are in doubt always consult with your doctor and do not attempt self diagnosis. The reason for taking your own readings is to provide a record over period of time to assist your doctor who may only be able to take measurements infrequently when you see them.
2) Always take your readings/measurements at the same time of day.
Our blood pressure can vary greatly and depends on many factors. As a general rule it is at its lowest in the small hours of the night when we are sleeping and at its greatest at sometime during the day. It is also affected by what we eat, drink do and how stressed we may be. So to try and get a stable average it is best to always take your measurements at the same time of day. We recommend early evening .
3) Do not eat, drink, smoke or exercise just before taking your measurements.
Try to relax; do not eat, drink, smoke or do any exercise 15 minutes before takings your measurements.

Okay now lets look at things in a bit more detail. The table below shows the topics we are going to look at:

What Is Blood Pressure?
How Is Blood Pressure Measured?
What Do The Figures Mean?
Why Take Your Own Measurements And The Pitfalls!
Obtaining And Using A Blood Pressure Meter
Taking Your Readings
Using The Recorder
Using Lifestyle Toolbox

What Is Blood Pressure?
Your blood pressure is a measure of the pressure inside your arteries (tubes that supply blood with oxygen inside your body) during the beating of your heart. This pressure is the force 'behind your blood' that is needed to push it through your blood vessels to reach every part of your body.

How Is Blood Pressure Measured?
Taking blood pressure readings can be done using differing types of measuring device. The traditional device, and sometimes considered the most accurate, is the Mercury sphygmomanometer. This involves your doctor or nurse pumping up a rubber cuff placed around your arm until your blood flow stops. The cuff pressure is measured using something that's looks like a thermometer but is a glass 'U' tube. This 'U' tube contains the liquid metal Mercury. The readings taken with this equipment are measured in millimeters (mm) of Mercury. This is the pressure of the vessels in your arm pushing the mercury up a certain distance of the glass tube against gravity which is then measured. This is where the numbers for blood pressure measurement come from (mm of Mercury/hg) regardless of the way they are measured.

More recently, electronic devices are used to replace the older glass 'U' tube sphygmomanometer but still require the cuff being placed around your arm.

You can do it yourself if you have a meter, but always read the instructions carefully to ensure you are doing correctly.

What Do The Figures Mean?
Normally blood pressure is measured with two numbers, measured in mm of Mercury (mm-hg). There is no perfect average but '120 over 70' or '120/70' could be considered good. Often we are told our blood pressure in these terms but do not really know what they mean. So we need to look them in closer detail, but before we do this, let's look at your heart:

Your heart is a pump. In engineering terms it is known as a displacement pump or one that works on the principle of sucking into an enclosed space then blowing out at a higher pressure (in simple terms). Other examples of a displacement pumps are piston pumps such as the ones we use to blow up airbeds or balloons. In one movement they suck in and in the opposite they push out. That's why your heart makes a 'boom boom' noise. Your 'Pulse' is the number of times, each minute; your heart pushes blood through your body. The Biology Place website describe how your heart works really well and we really recommend you have a read by clicking here

So let's look at those numbers. 120 over 70 (120/70) and what do they indicate? The first number is known medically as the 'Systolic'. This is the pressure in your arteries when your heart is pushing your blood, or blowing the blood through you body in (mm-hg). The second number is known medically as the 'Diastolic'. This is the pressure in your arteries when your heart has finished pushing your blood and has relaxed, preparing itself for the next 'push'. The measurement is also in (mm-hg).

No-one has a perfect blood pressure, constantly. The human body is a fantastic invention; it can adapt itself perfectly to most environments.

When your body is being physically exerted, the part of your Brain that controls your vital functions tells your heart to beat quicker. This ensures that your blood, which carries the valuable oxygen to your muscles and organs, gets there quicker. Your brain reacts the same way when you are stressed since it sees this as a threat to your existence and prepares your body to fight or flee. The reverse happens when you are relaxed or sleeping, your brain decides you are not under threat and your body does not need the faster rate of oxygenated blood.

There is also another side to the story that also affects your blood pressure. Your whole body hangs off the other end of the arteries (pipes) that your heart is pumping the blood through to. If you have an organ (Liver, Kidneys, Brain) that is not 100% then this may affect things; But and more commonly it's the arteries themselves that can cause problems

So there are three important factors when we look at blood pressure:

1) Ability of your heart to pump your blood

2) Ability of your Cardiovascular System (Arteries etc) to supply the blood

3) Ability of your body to accept the blood

Nobody's blood pressure reading is ever consistent. This is why taking your blood pressure is a very difficult thing to do and must be done many times to get the average, and a good reflection of the normal running of the body.

Why Take Your Own Measurements And The Pitfalls!
Unless you are a doctor or nurse who has been professionally trained in taking blood pressure measurements you may not be doing it 100% correctly, your equipment is probably not as accurate and it is always better to get someone else to do it. However if you do it yourself regularly, you can provide records taken many times over a long time period which can compliment what the doctor sees when they take it. It helps them understand the fluctuations and variations in your normal life and not just while you are in the clinic.

Obtaining And Using A Blood Pressure Meter
You can buy your own electronic meter from most drug stores/pharmacy outlets. Ask the Pharmacists to recommend a device. Try and buy one with a separate arm cusp instead of an all in one unit as these tend to be more accurate. Always make sure the batteries are okay when using it as flat batteries can give rogue readings!

Taking Your Readings
Remember the Golden Rules above.

Using The Recorder
The Lifestyle Toolbox Blood Pressure Recorder is simple and quick to use. Simply start the program on your computer enter you details for that day and close it again - all this can be done in less than 30 seconds. If you want to view the report, simply click on the appropriate button. As a tip always take your measurements for a day before viewing the report! - If you do not already have the Recorder, please click here to download it.

Using Lifestyle Toolbox
The Lifestyle Toolbox Blood Pressure Recorder is simple and ideal for providing an overview. If you want to analyze things (diet, activities etc) that may be affecting your blood pressure, in a bit more detail, we suggest trying the main Lifestyle Toolbox program which is available from this website ...more

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Lifestyle Toolbox provide this software free of charge as a memorial to Steve West of Bedford England, who died unexpectedly of a myocardial infarction on December 20th 2006.