Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Understanding a Blood Pressure Reading: Systolic and Diastolic

As a health care provider I am always asked about blood pressures and the significance of "the numbers" used in obtaining a blood pressure. I have found a vast variety in how individuals correlate and interpret "these numbers." An understanding of what and how a blood pressure is obtained may help to clarify that.

Accurate measurement of blood pressure is crucial to classify individuals with certain health risks and to also guide in correct management of other disease processes. There are several types of devices used in measuring blood pressure. The auscultatory (listening) technique with a trained professional and a mercury sphygmomanometer (an instrument used to measure blood pressure in an artery that consists of a pressure gauge, an inflatable cuff placed around the upper arm, and an inflator bulb or pressure pump) is still considered to be the method of choice in assessing a blood pressure according to the American Heart Association Journals. However, we know that there are a variety of different devices found today such as electronic ones.

Regardless, of which method is used the way a blood pressure is measured is done the same. A cuff is wrapped around the upper arm which occludes the brachial artery it is then inflated to above systolic pressure (the contraction of the heart, during which blood is pumped into the arteries), then it is gradually deflated as the blood flow is re-established giving a tapping noise. Please read more on obtaining and understanding a B/P.