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Measuring blood pressure.

Diagnosis of hypertension is generally on the basis of a persistently high blood pressure. Usually this requires three separate measurements at least one week apart. Exceptionally, if the elevation is extreme, or end-organ damage is present then the diagnosis may be applied and treatment commenced immediately.

Obtaining reliable blood pressure measurements relies on following several rules and understanding the many factors that influence blood pressure reading.

For instance, measurements in control of hypertension should be at least 1 hour after caffeine, 30 minutes after smoking or strenuous exercise and without any stress. Cuff size is also important. The bladder should encircle and cover two-thirds of the length of the (upper) arm. The patient should be sitting upright in a chair with both feet flat on the floor for a minimum of five minutes prior to taking a reading. The patient should not be on any adrenergic stimulants, such as those found in many cold medications.

When taking manual measurements, the person taking the measurement should be careful to inflate the cuff suitably above anticipated systolic pressure. The person should inflate the cuff to 200 mmHg and then slowly release the air while palpating the radial pulse. After one minute, the cuff should be reinflated to 30 mmHg higher than the pressure at which the radial pulse was no longer palpable. A stethoscope should be placed lightly over the brachial artery. The cuff should be at the level of the heart and the cuff should be deflated at a rate of 2 to 3 mmHg/s. Systolic pressure is the pressure reading at the onset of the sounds described by Korotkoff (Phase one). Diastolic pressure is then recorded as the pressure at which the sounds disappear (K5) or sometimes the K4 point, where the sound is abruptly muffled. Two measurements should be made at least 5 minutes apart, and, if there is a discrepancy of more than 5 mmHg, a third reading should be done. The readings should then be averaged. An initial measurement should include both arms. In elderly patients who particularly when treated may show orthostatic hypotension, measuring lying sitting and standing BP may be useful. The BP should at some time have been measured in each arm, and the higher pressure arm preferred for subsequent measurements.

BP varies with time of day, as may the effectiveness of treatment, and archetypes used to record the data should include the time taken. Analysis of this is rare at present.
Automated machines are commonly used and reduce the variability in manually collected readings.Routine measurements done in medical offices of patients with known hypertension may incorrectly diagnose 20% of patients with uncontrolled hypertension.

Home blood pressure monitoring can provide a measurement of a person's blood pressure at different times throughout the day and in different environments, such as at home and at work. Home monitoring may assist in the diagnosis of high or low blood pressure. It may also be used to monitor the effects of medication or lifestyle changes taken to lower or regulate blood pressure levels.

Home monitoring of blood pressure can also assist in the diagnosis of white coat hypertension. The American Heart Associationes, "You may have what's called 'white coat hypertension'; that means your blood pressure goes up when you're at the doctor's office. Monitoring at home will help you measure your true blood pressure and can provide your doctor with a log of blood pressure measurements over time. This is helpful in diagnosing and preventing potential health problems."

Some home blood pressure monitoring devices also make use of blood pressure charting software. These charting methods provide printouts for the patient's physician and reminders to take a blood pressure reading. However, a simple and cheap way is simply to manually record values with pen and paper, which can then be inspected by a doctor.

Systolic hypertension is defined as an elevated systolic blood pressure. If systolic blood pressure is elevated with a normal diastolic blood pressure, it is called isolated systolic hypertension. Systolic hypertension may be due to reduced compliance of the aorta with increasing age.


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