The staff at Accredited Home Care is encouraging caregivers of all experience levels to learn more about blood pressure in May.
Not only is it American Stroke Month, but also National High Blood Pressure Education Month. Plus, May 17 is World Hypertension Day, when the American Heart Association encourages people to check their blood pressure.
Certainly, checking blood pressure should be done more than once a year, especially if someone has other health conditions they’re concerned about. It should also be measured correctly by people with proper training and correct equipment.
That means basic methods like counting by putting pressure on an artery or pulse point is all right for an estimate, but to provide a more accurate measurement requires better tools.
Why it’s important
The American Heart Association said blood pressure is one of the most important controllable risk factors for stroke. High blood pressure is also easily preventable, yet it still kills a large variety of people worldwide each year.
The Centers for Disease Control said untreated high blood pressure has even more risks and contributes to other negative health conditions.
For instance, uncontrollable high blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke and heart disease. It’s also considered a ‘silent killer’ since many people are not aware they have it and few signs are noticeable – patients may simply feel fine. Although people may have physicals once or twice a year, they may have their pressure checked but not receive a lot of information about its prognosis.
All ages may experience dangerous blood pressure conditions. Nearly 1 in 4 men and 1 in 5 women age 35-44 have high blood pressure and having it in middle age, 45-65, may create a higher risk for dementia later in life.
What they mean
Blood pressure is measured by looking at two numbers: the systolic pressure, which is the force your heart exerts on your arteries during every beat; and diastolic, which is the force on your arteries between beats.
Pressure is provided with the systolic above the diastolic.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the normal adult range is considered below 120/80. Slightly elevated is 120-129 and diastolic below 80.
The next figure, for low hypertension, is between 130-139 or 80-89. At this point, people should consult their doctor about medications or healthy lifestyle options.
Stage 2 hypertension has a range of 140 or higher or 90 or higher, and people are further encouraged to talk to their provider about additional medicine or lifestyle changes.
Optimal blood pressure can vary slightly by individuals, especially teens or seniors. An ideal senior blood pressure
Providers also may consider a different acceptable threshold for people with past heart disease, diabetes or other health conditions that could contribute to hypertension. They also may require more measurements if they have a higher risk factor for developing heart disease in the next decade or have a family history of coronary artery disease, kidney disease or diabetes.
Learn to measure well
There is a certain amount of skill required in taking blood pressure correctly, which is why it is part of basic medical training for just about every position. Being able to provide a correct measurement or history can help providers or others in the event of a health crisis. Knowing someone’s history of high blood pressure can also be an encouragement to change lifestyle or diet.
In some cases, a provider may not be interested in a single reading, since these can vary throughout the day to activity and diet. But he or she might like seeing patterns over time.
Typically, a cuff is wrapped around someone’s arm and then slowly inflated as the arm is squeezed. Then a small amount of air is released. As the pulse continues to go through the arm, a dial on the cuff will provide the measurement.
Nurses or physicians also may use their stethoscopes.
If you’re a caregiver taking blood pressure, some conditions can negatively affect the results of the testing. These include:
- Talking, which can raise blood pressure
- Having a caffeinated beverage right before the test
- Standing or being active. Instead, people should be sitting calmly for about five minutes prior to the check.
- Placing the cuff over clothes, not skin. Direct skin contact should provide better measurements.
- Measuring only once. Consider measuring with both arms which can provide slightly different results.
- Acute pain
Where to test
Because blood pressure is a fairly simple and un-invasive procedure, many people in one’s community may offer it, sometimes for free. Medical clinics may offer it without a formal visit, and fire departments/EMS centers. Some drug stores may have an automatic machine.
Home health professionals in the Woodland Hills area will likely test it at every visit, and encourage caregivers with this skill to test it more often if the client is in poor health or has high risks for hypertension/heart disease.
For more information visit Accredited Home Care.