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Blood pressure basics: How to measure BP at home, ideal range, risks of high BP

Published on May 13, 2022 02:32 PM IST

How to check your blood pressure at home and what is a healthy range for young and old people; know from an expert. 

World Hypertension Day is celebrated every year on May 17(Pixabay)

We all hear about this silent killer called hypertension or high blood pressure and how it can lead to many diseases and damage heart, kidney, brain without showing any notable symptoms in many people. But do we know what blood pressure really is? (Also read: World Hypertension Day 2022: Believing in these blood pressure myths can be fatal)

Blood pressure is the force exerted by circulating blood against the walls of the body’s arteries, the major blood vessels in the body; hypertension is when blood pressure is too high, according to World Health Organization (WHO). We all know that blood pressure reading has two values. But what do they signify? WHO says the first (systolic) number represents the pressure in blood vessels when the heart contracts or beats and the second (diastolic) number represents the pressure in the vessels when the heart rests between beats.

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It is advised that the best way to keep blood pressure levels in control is to get it checked and incorporate healthy lifestyle changes. For this reason, some people also keep a BP machine at home, also known as sphygmomanometer.

Considering there is a lot of talk around hypertension or high blood pressure but less awareness, we asked Dr. Rakesh Rai Sapra, Director and Sr. Consultant- Cardiology, QRG Super Speciality Hospital, Faridabad to answer some basic questions related to BP for you all, on the occasion of World Hypertension Day (May 17).

How to measure blood pressure at home

- BP should best be measured in a relaxed state. This means that the person should be mentally and physically relaxed.

- Make sure that the blood pressure should not be measured immediately after any physical activity and a person should not have had a major meal, coffee/tea or a smoke in the last 15-30 minutes.

- The person should preferably be sitting with back supported. The arm should be kept horizontal and should also be supported. BP instrument should be kept at the level of patient’s heart.

- The person should not move his limb and should not talk during measurement.

- It is a good practice to take two readings at least 1-2 minutes apart and then average the two readings.

What is the ideal blood pressure range?

- Blood pressure readings have two values, the upper one is called systolic blood pressure and the lower one is called diastolic blood pressure.

- Normal blood pressure is up to 120/80 mmHg.

- Blood pressures between 120-140 systolic and 80-90 diastolic are considered pre hypertension. And blood pressure more than 140/90 are labelled as hypertension and is the cut off criteria of advising medications.

- Once medication is advised the treatment goal or target is to keep blood pressure less than 140/90 in people less than 60 years of age and less than 150/90 in people more than 60 years of age.

- In people with associated heart disease, diabetes or kidney disease target blood pressure is less than 130/90 mmHg.

What does high or low blood pressure say about your health?

High blood pressure is definitely harmful for our body. This harm progressively increases with increasing blood pressure values. In fact, it is said that chances of dying from heart disease doubles with every 20 mmHg increase in systolic and 10 mmHg increase in diastolic blood pressure above 115/75 mmHg.

Low blood pressure on the other hand should not be considered a disease as low blood pressure is actually cardio-protective as it decreases the work load on heart. So, if a person is asymptomatic and heart function is normal then low blood pressure is actually beneficial for body.

What happens when we don’t monitor our blood pressure regularly?

High blood pressure usually does not produce any symptoms. So, if you do not get your blood pressure checked then you will not know even if your blood pressure is high. And high blood pressure even if it is not producing any symptoms will harm your body especially heart, kidney and brain. That is why it is considered a silent killer. So, it is important to get your blood pressure checked regularly and if it is high, take medications regularly so that body is not harmed.

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