If you are a health conscious individual, you probably keep an eye on your blood pressure, and monitor it regularly. But, do you know what blood pressure actually is? Blood pressure is the amount of force the blood exerts against the arteries. The heart pumps blood through the arteries, and this blood goes through the body.
Arteries start out large and taper down until they are small blood vessels known as capillaries. This is where the blood releases oxygen and nutrients to be delivered to the body, and to the organs.
In order to measure this blood pressure, we use blood pressure monitors that read the measurements in mercury, or mmHg.
Types of Blood Pressure
Before you can completely understand blood pressure measurements, it is important to know about the different types of blood pressure. There are actually two types of blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure is the pressure that is within the arteries when the heart is pumping.
Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure within the arteries when the heart is at rest between each beat. When the arteries are stiff or narrow, there is a rise in the blood pressure, the heart works too hard, and damage can be caused to the arteries, leading to health issues, including heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.
How to Measure Blood Pressure
When you look at a blood pressure reading, you will see one number over the other. The systolic reading is on top, and the diastolic reading is on the bottom. Both numbers are measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). The systolic number is recorded first, and then the diastolic number. A normal blood pressure reading would be 120/80 mmHg.
There are many things that can affect your blood pressure readings, including your diet, how much you exercise, whether you smoke, drinking coffee or other drinks with caffeine, and even having a full bladder. If you have just exercised, this will also affect the reading. It is a good idea to take several readings and average them out to get an accurate blood pressure measurement.
Why is Blood Pressure Measured with Mercury?
In 1896, Riva-Rocci from Italy developed the first mercury sphygmomanometer, which is still used today to measure blood pressure. A column of mercury is used to create balance, and indicate how much pressure is exerted in the blood pressure cuff. This is the most accurate type of blood pressure reading, although the machines are also the most bulky, even the portable units
Normal Blood Pressure Levels
As mentioned, a normal blood pressure reading is around 120/80. Nearly half of the adult US population has a blood pressure rate at this level. There was a time when it was considered normal to have readings between this number and 140/90, but studies now show that numbers this high could mean that one is prone to hypertension. If the levels are higher than this, the person is considered to have hypertension, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
As we age, blood pressure levels tend to rise, so don’t be concerned if your levels go up a little bit as you get older. Children on the other hand tend to have lower blood pressure readings, so this is not something to be overly concerned about. Adults who have low readings may have a condition known as hypotension, which happens when the blood pressure is lower than 90/60. Symptoms of this can include dizziness and fainting.
Monitoring Your Blood Pressure at Home
If your doctor is concerned about your blood pressure, they may recommend that you monitor it regularly, rather than having to go to see your doctor all the time, there are machines you can get that let you monitor your own blood pressure at home.
There are blood pressure kits available that use either the traditional cuffs or digital technology, and they can be purchased at most pharmacies, or any place where medical supplies are sold. You can also purchase these devices online at Amazon and other websites.
Even if you don’t think you have any health problems, you may be surprised to learn that you can have high blood pressure without experiencing any symptoms. This is why it is so important to monitor your blood pressure regularly. Having high blood pressure can lead to a variety of serious health conditions, including heart attacks, and even kidney failure. It only takes a few minutes to check your blood pressure, and that few minutes could save your life.