Checking & Controlling Blood Pressure

WHAT IS BLOOD PRESSURE?

Blood pressure is a measure of the strength of blood pushing against the sides of the blood vessels in the circulatory system. Having high blood pressure is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Blood pressure is measured with two numbers. The top number, called systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart beats. The bottom number, called diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart is at rest between beats. Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of Mercury (mm Hg).

Chart of blood pressure ranges

Image source: American Heart Association

CHECKING YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE

Measuring blood pressure regularly is the only way to know if blood pressure is high. At-home blood pressure machines are available at local pharmacies and retailers for purchase. There are also blood pressure machines available at pharmacies that can be used by patrons.

The American Heart Association recommends using an automatic, cuff-style, upper-arm monitor to measure blood pressure at home. Ask your pharmacist or doctor for advice.

When you are ready to take your blood pressure:

  • Rest. Do not smoke, drink caffeine or exercise within 30 minutes of measurement.
    Sit correctly. Sit in a chair with both feet flat on the floor. Sit next to a table to let your arm rest while you take your measurement.
  • Put on the cuff. Remove any tight clothing and place the cuff snugly around the upper part of your bare arm. The center of the cuff should sit over the artery.
  • Be consistent. Take your blood pressure at the same time each day.
  • Record your results. Take two or three readings each time you take your blood pressure and record your results. Be sure to take your results to your next doctor’s appointment.

7 tips to get an accurate blood pressure reading

CONTROLLING YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE

Although we cannot control our genetics, age, race or gender, there are ways to manage and control blood pressure. Lifestyle changes and/or prescribed medications can help to keep blood pressure in check and lower the risk of experiencing the harmful effects of high blood pressure.

If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe medication to help control it. Take your medication as instructed and do not stop taking your medication until you talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Lifestyle changes may also help you control blood pressure.
  • Diet. Eat a healthy diet that is high in fresh fruits and vegetables and low in salt (sodium), saturated fat, and cholesterol.
  • Physical activity. Aim for at least 30 minutes of activity most days of the week.
  • Do not smoke. If you do smoke, quit as soon as possible.
  • Manage stress. Learn to cope with stress in healthy ways, such as meditation, music or yoga.
  • Make sure to check your blood pressure often. You can check your blood pressure at a doctor’s office or pharmacy. You can also self-monitor your blood pressure at home with at-home blood pressure monitor.