Before you learn about reading your blood pressure or someone else’s, here are a few notes on how your heart operates and how blood is pumped through your arteries. When you listen to your heart beat through a stethoscope, you hear a rhythm that resembles a “lub-dub, lub-dub” sound. This indicates your blood pressure, or the force that your blood exerts on your vessels as it is pumped by the heart.
The “lub” represents your systolic blood pressure. At the moment you hear it, your heart contracts as it has already pumped out blood. The “dub” is your diastolic blood pressure. At this instant, you heart expands again to take in more blood before it contracts again as it pumps. Blood pressure or BP is measured with these two parameters, and is often denoted by a ratio, like 120/80. The first number is for systolic pressure, and the second is for diastolic. Medical sources explain that normal BP should have a systolic pressure of 120 or less, and a diastolic pressure of about 60 to 80.
You can easily read your own BP or someone else’s using a sphygmomanometer, which is a measuring device that is attached to an inflating cuff placed on the arm. To be able to keep a record of BP, you will need the sphygmomanometer, a stethoscope, and a pencil and paper. Follow these basic steps:
- Make sure the arm is not covered with a sleeve; allow it to rest on a table. Place the cuff around the upper arm, about an inch above the elbow. Maintain a loose fit of the cuff, such that you can still insert your two fingers. This gives it enough room as it inflates.
- Ensure that the BP gauge is easily seen. If your sphygmomanometer is electronic, simply switch it on, as it automatically does the reading for you. However, if you have a manual one, you need to pump to inflate the cuff.
- Place the stethoscope on the crook of the elbow as you inflate the cuff. Inflate it until the pressure is about 180-200mmHg. Then deflate the cuff slowly. While keeping an eye on the gauge, listen for the first beat on your stethoscope. Record this as the systolic blood pressure.
- Keep looking at the gauge and keep deflating the cuff as you listen for the last beat on your stethoscope. This will be recorded as the diastolic blood pressure.
- Regularly take note of your blood pressure, which you may need to record every few hours or as specified by your doctor.
The less adventurous among us can still have their blood pressure measured at a healthcare kiosk or by visiting their family doctor.