You’ve heard the blood pressure readings. You know the optimal blood pressure levels. You even know some of the medications used to treat high blood pressure. BUT… do you know how they got those numbers? Most people don’t, so let me explain (I’ll try not to get TOO tech-y).
What’s that machine called again?
The device that is used to measure blood pressure is called a Sphygmomanometer. (It’s a tongue twister for sure!) It’s basically a pressure gauge attached to an inflatable cuff. The practitioner puts this around your arm in their office. If you are taking blood pressure at home, you may put the machine around your arm or your wrist, depending on the type of machine you have.
In the doctor’s office, IF they are doing it manually the practitioner will put a stethoscope at the bend of your arm after they place the cuff. This is so that they can hear the blood rushing through your vessels (if they are using an automated machine, they skip this part.)
How it works…
After everything is in place, air is pumped through the cuff until they can no longer hear the blood rushing through your veins. How high they have to pump it depends on your blood pressure. The higher your pressure, the more air that needs to go into the cuff. If they pump it too low, they will not get an accurate reading.
Once they get to the point where they can no longer hear your blood racing in your veins, they will slowly release the air in the cuff while looking at the pressure gauge. The practitioner will look at the pressure gauge because they need to know what that number is as soon as they can hear it again. This is your top, Systolic, number. Now that they have your top number, they will need to slowly continue to release the air in the cuff while still looking at the gauge, until they can no longer hear your blood flowing. This is your diastolic number.
What they are listening for is how much force is needed for your blood to overcome the pressure in the cuff (systolic) and at what point the pressure in your arteries is so low that your vessels are no longer being challenged (diastolic).
This is how your doctors come up with your blood pressure numbers.
If you have high blood pressure…
For more information, check out these 2 previous blog posts about heart health and hypertension!