Blood pressure check

This refers to the standard blood pressure check that is carried out by your GP.

The traditional method of measuring blood pressure involved a device called a ‘sphygmomanometer’. This consists of a thermometer and an inflatable cuff which is worn around the upper arm.

Your GP would fit this cuff around your upper arm before inflating it to restrict the blood flow to your arm. He or she would then listen to your pulse via a stethoscope.

Your GP would obtain a reading by looking at the mercury thermometer as the arm cuff is deflated. He or she is interested in how your pulse reacts (measurement) as this cuff is deflated. But most GP’s surgeries now use an electronic device which measures your pulse via a series of sensors.

Preparing for a blood pressure check

Try and relax beforehand. Make sure that you have visited the toilet before the check as a full bladder will skew the reading.

Avoid having caffeine at least 30 minutes beforehand.

Sit down for at least 5 minutes before the check as moving around will cause a small increase in your blood pressure.

What do the numbers mean?

A reading of 120/80 is classed as normal.

But anything over that is defined as high blood pressure. Equally, anything under that is termed low blood pressure.

Learn more about these in our blood pressure readings section.

Blood pressure readings are expressed as two numbers -systolic and diastolic. Systolic is the upper figure, e.g. the ‘120’in a normal reading of 120/80.

Diastolic is the lower figure, e.g. the ‘80’in a reading of 120/80.

It is important to realise that a diagnosis of high blood pressure will not be confirmed or rejected from a single reading. Your GP will carry out a series of readings on a regular basis to see if you have high blood pressure on a constant basis. This is equally important if you suffer from ‘white coat hypertension’. This syndrome occurs if you feel stressed or anxious before you undergo a blood pressure reading from your GP. There are people who find that their blood pressure rises when they visit their GP which is often due to feeling tense in a medical environment.

But, their blood pressure is normal if measured at home.

White coat hypertension is discussed further in our types of high blood pressure section.

If your blood pressure is high after a single reading then your GP will advise a period of observation. This means that he or she will check your blood pressure at consistent times and dates to see if it remains high during that time.

This is discussed further in the next section.

High Blood Pressure

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