Video: How to monitor your own blood pressure

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Video: How to monitor your own blood pressure

Your heart is a pump. When it contracts, or  beats, it sends a surge of blood through the vessels, increasing blood  pressure. This is called systolic pressure. When your heart relaxes between beats,  your blood pressure decreases. This is called diastolic pressure.

Monitoring your blood pressure at home is easy  to do. It's done with a sphygmomanometer. There are two main types: aneroid and  automatic.

Make sure you have back support and a comfortable  place to sit at a table or desk. Place your feet flat on the floor and rest  your arm on a tabletop even with your heart. Stretch out your arm, palm upward.  Place the cuff on your bare upper arm one inch above the bend of your elbow.  Make sure that the tubing falls over the front of your arm so that the sensor  is correctly placed. Pull the end of the cuff so that it's evenly tight around  your arm. Make sure your skin doesn't pinch when the cuff inflates.

Automatic equipment contains electronics that  sense the pulse wave under an inflated arm cuff. Automatic equipment minimizes  human error and is recommended if you have hearing or vision loss. Most units  are portable.

To get started, press the on-off button. Wait a  moment, then press "Start." Remain still and quiet as the machine  begins measuring.

The cuff inflates by itself on the more  expensive models, then slowly deflates so that the machine can take your  measurement. When the reading is complete, the monitor alternately displays  your blood pressure and pulse on the digital panel. Be sure to write down your  numbers. Rest quietly and wait about one to two minutes before taking another  measurement.

Aneroid equipment includes a cuff, an attached  pump, a stethoscope and a gauge. This equipment requires coordination and is  difficult to use if you're hearing or visually impaired or if you're unable to  perform the hand movements needed to squeeze the bulb and inflate the cuff.

To begin, put the cuff on. Then, place the disk  of the stethoscope facedown under the cuff, just to the inner side of your  upper arm, over the brachial artery. Next, place the stethoscope earpieces in  your ears, with the earpieces facing forward. Rest the gauge in the open palm  of your cuffed arm so that you can clearly see it. Then squeeze the pump  rapidly with your opposite hand until the gauge reads 30 points above your  usual systolic pressure. Be sure to inflate the cuff rapidly.

Stop pumping, and turn the knob on the pump  toward you to let the air out slowly. Let the pressure fall 2 millimeters, or  lines on the dial, per second while listening for your heart sounds. Note the  reading when you first hear a heartbeat. This is your systolic pressure. Note  when you no longer hear the beating sounds. This is your diastolic pressure.

Write your numbers down so that you don't  forget. Then after 1 or 2 minutes, repeat the procedure to confirm your first  reading.

Using the proper cuff will help ensure an  accurate reading. Look for a D-ring cuff style for easier use. Children and  adults with smaller- or larger-than-average-sized arms may need special-sized  cuffs, available at many pharmacies and from medical supply companies.

Last Updated: 05/08/2006
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