What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure (BP) is the force per unit area exerted on the blood vessel walls by the blood as it flows through them.

It is usually measured at the wrist as this helps track the pressure of blood in the brachial artery which is the major artery leading away from the heart in the upper right and left arms. The pressure can also be measured at the ankle.

The blood pressure measurement consists of a higher and a lower reading. These are known as the Systolic and Diastolic readings. This are usually measured in mmHg (mercury column height in mm). It is shown as a systolic/diastolic reading. As an example, 118/70 means 118mmHg Systolic and 70mmHG Diastolic.

These readings can be categorized as

1. 120/80 is ‘Normal’.

2. 120-139 Systolic or 80-89 Diastolic is considered as ‘Prehypertension’.

3. 140 or over Systolic or 90 or over Diastolic is considered as Elevated.

BP is checked by doctors usually by using an instrument called a sphygmomanometer. Blood pressure readings are also available at various pharmacies for checking the pressure easily at home. These come with a digital display which makes it easy to read the values accurately.

The process for taking a reading is simple and involves the following steps.

1. Wrap the arm cuff or wrist cuff as the case may be, provided with the blood pressure monitor.

2. Pump the cuff with air through a hand bulb. This slowly squeezes the arm or wrist till it temporarily interrupts the flow of blood. The pressure gauge reaches its peak.

3. As the pressure starts to drop, mark the pressure where the pulse is first heard. This is the systolic reading.

4. As the pressure continues to drop, monitor the pulse till the last audible beat at take pressure reading. This is the diastolic reading.

For a greater reliability in the BP readings the following precautions are helpful.

1. Taking multiple readings and then the averaging these, will give to a more accurate final result.

2. Making sure there is a gap of atleast 2 minutes between readings.

3. Avoiding caffeinated beverages, smoking for atleast half an hour before the readings.

4. Being relaxed before taking the readings.

Most modern blood pressure readings are quite accurate in taking blood pressure readings. This can be backed by a regular visit to your doctor every 2-3 months.

High blood pressure is a symptomless ailment and in a number of cases, the person is not even aware of this situation. It leads to a greater risk of future problems related to the cardiovascular system and a regular checkup is essential.