Blood pressure doesn’t have to be an especially tricky procedure that only nurses and physicians can perform. In fact, just about anyone in the Cedar Rapids area can learn the basics of this procedure and how to interpret the numbers, whether someone is in fine health or at the end of life.
Certainly, a medical or nursing professional, such as a representative from Above and Beyond Home Health Care, will possess more training, experience, and abilities in being able to take someone’s blood pressure. But it’s actually a skill that anyone can acquire and practice, and something that can provide useful medical data about a patient during the times of the day or week when a provider or nurse is unable to visit.
This month is a perfect opportunity to learn some of these skills.
May has been declared American Stroke Month as well as National High Blood Pressure Month. Health care personnel plus patients and patients celebrated World Hypertension Day, which was May 17, an annual occasion in which the American Heart Association promotes awareness and prevention of heart disease and high blood pressure.
How to measure your blood pressure
Most medical or nursing professionals learn to take blood pressure early on.
While not technically complex, as say drawing blood, it does have to be done properly in order to provide accurate results.
Proper measurements over time can provide a good guide to someone’s current or past heart health and overall circulation.
Providers may not necessarily want to see a single reading since these can vary slightly throughout the day due to activity, diet or stress levels. But he or she might like seeing patterns over time.
The measurement process typically begins by wrapping a cuff around someone’s arm and then slowly squeezing so the cuff inflates and tightens. A slow amount of air is released and then the pulse is felt and indicated on a dial on the cuff.
Nurses or providers with experience with pulses can use their stethoscopes. People often use their fingers to touch the underside of the wrist. This may be an easy assessment to measure heart rate in a hurry; it isn’t always the most accurate way to specifically measure blood pressure.
Learning the data
Blood pressure is measured by learning systolic pressure, which is the force your heart exerts on your arteries during every beat; and diastolic pressure, which is the force your heart exerts on your arteries between beats.
The final figure should be listed as the systolic above the diastolic.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the standard adult range for blood pressure is 120/80 or lower. A slightly elevated figure is 120-129 for systolic and below 80 for diastolic.
Low hypertension is considered between 130-139 systolic and 80-89 diastolic. People with this level should consult their doctor about medications or healthy lifestyle options.
Stage 2 hypertension has a range of 140 systolic or higher or 90 diastolic or higher. Anyone with this level is encouraged to talk to their provider.
Optimal blood pressure can vary slightly by individuals, especially teens or seniors.
People with conditions that can contribute higher risk factors for hypertension, such as past diabetes, heart disease or family history, might have a different acceptable threshold for their blood pressure levels. Or, a provider may recommend that they have their blood pressure checked more often.
Blood pressure can be taken in a variety of settings, but some activities can negatively skew the results, including:
- Standing or being active at least 5 minutes before measuring
- Having caffeinated beverages right before the test
- High stress or anxiety right before the test
- Not placing the cuff directly on the skin, such as on clothes
- Measuring one arm only (Different arms may different results)
- Strong pain
The American Heart Association said high blood pressure is also one of the most important controllable risk factors for heart disease and stroke and heart disease, but not everyone knows they may have it.
The Centers for Disease Control concurs and has declared that high blood pressure can contribute to other negative health conditions.
Nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 4 men age 35-44 have high blood pressure. Plus, having high blood pressure in middle age, 45-65, may create a higher risk for dementia later in life.
High blood pressure has even been called a ‘silent killer’ by some because so many people may have it and feel fine. Many signs of hypertension aren’t noticeable, and patients may only go to the doctor a few times annually. Blood pressure may be one the first things that measured on these visits, but they still occur too infrequently especially if someone has a higher risk of hypertension due to lifestyle or past history.
Home health can help
Even someone receiving hospice care should have their blood pressure checked regularly, whether it’s a nurse measuring this or visiting a provider’s office, fire department or pharmacy.
Home health professionals in the Cedar Rapids area will likely test it at every visit, and encourage caregivers or family member with this skill to test it more often if the patient is in poor health or high risk.
For more information visit Above and Beyond Home Health Care.