How To Check your Blood Pressure Without A Machine?

Introduction

Blood pressure is defined as “The strength with which your blood pushes on the sides of your arteries as it is pumped around your body” (NHS). Measuring blood pressure is important in order to monitor your health and understand if it is healthy, or if it is too high or low. 

Blood pressure is usually measured with a machine. There are different blood pressure machines, most of them characterized by an arm cuff. 

Blood pressure categories

Understanding blood pressure readings is the first step in understanding if your blood pressure is in the normal range. According to the American Heart Association, you can understand the category of your blood pressure by looking at two values: the systolic pressure and the diastolic pressure. The systolic pressure represents the pressure of the blood in the arteries when your heart beats or contracts. The diastolic pressure measures the pressure of the blood in the arteries in between the beats of your heart, when it relaxes. These pressures are measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). The range is considered to be normal when the systolic pressure is less than 120 mm Hg and the diastolic one is less than 80. It is considered elevated when the systolic pressure is between 120 and 120 mm Hg and the diastolic pressure is less than 80 mm Hg. 

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is divided in stage 1 and stage 2. Stage 1 is characterized by a systolic pressure between 130 and 139 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure between 80 and 89. Stage 2 is characterized by a systolic pressure higher than 140 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure higher than 90. When the systolic pressure is higher than 180 mm Hg and/or the diastolic pressure is higher than 120 mm Hg, hypertension develops into hypertensive crisis. In this last case, one needs to consult the doctor immediately. Hypotension (low blood pressure) is characterized by systolic pressure lower than 90 mm Hg and a diastolic pressure lower than 60 mm Hg.

Symptoms

The main symptoms of hypertension include morning headaches, shortness of breath, nosebleeds, irregular heart rhythms, vision changes, buzzing in the ears. Severe hypertension can cause fatigue, nausea, vomiting, confusion, anxiety, chest pain, and muscle tremors. (WHO).Symptoms of hypotension include lightheadedness and/or dizziness, sickness, blurred vision, a general sense of weakness, fainting, and confusion. 

Blood pressure test

Blood pressure machines often have an arm cuff attached to them. To measure your blood pressure, you wrap the cuff around your upper arm. The cuff gets filled with air. While this happens, you might feel as if it is too tight and uncomfortabl, but the feeling will last a few seconds, and it is important for you to relax and be patient. An automatic device usually picks up the measurements from sensors that are present in the arm cuff. They are then sent to a digital display. If a healthcare professional is measuring your blood pressure, they may also decide to use a stethoscope to record it. To regularly check your blood pressure at home, you can decide to buy a digital blood pressure machine to use whenever you feel like it. 

Measuring blood pressure without a machine

If you do not have a machine, you can check your heart rate by feeling your pulse. Your blood pressure is the force of your blood moving through your blood vessels, your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute. Since they are not exactly the same thing, it would always be better to use a machine when you can. 

You can check your heart rate by following these steps: 

  • Place your index and middle fingers on the inner wrist below the base of the thumb of the other arm 
  • You should feel a pulsing against your fingers.
  • You should count the number of taps you feel within 10 seconds.
  • Multiply the number you get by 6 to find out your heart rate for one minute 
  • When feeling your pulse, you should be able to tell if your heart rhythm is regular or not

Results

There is no exact way to interpret the result, since measuring your heart rate is not the same thing as measuring your blood pressure. Checking the pulse will give the basic information required to estimate the systolic blood pressure, but it only indicates if the systolic blood pressure is not low and is not a completely reliable method. For this reason, as mentioned previously, using a machine is normally the better option. 

Precautions 

Since the method mentioned above is not completely reliable, it is always better to use a machine, especially if one is not feeling well and needs to have an exact estimate. Fortunately in current times, it is easier to purchase automatic blood pressure monitors at a moderate price.

Disadvantages

The correlation between blood pressure and heart rate is uncertain and not direct. Therefore, the main disadvantage of this method is that it is not very effective and should not be a substitute for the others.

Measuring blood pressure manually

To measure the blood pressure manually, one needs a cuff, an attached pump, a stethoscope and a gauge. Before measuring the blood pressure, you should sit for around three minutes before proceeding to take it. To measure your blood pressure: 

  1. Place the cuff on your bare upper arm, an inch above the bend of your elbow. Pull the end of the cuff  in order for it to be tight around your arm. Check that your skin doesn't pinch when the cuff inflates.
  2. When the cuff is on, place the stethoscope disk facedown and under the cuff, just to the inner side of the upper arm.
  3. Place the stethoscope earpieces facing forward in your ears, so that they are pointing toward the tip of your nose. Rest the gauge in the open palm of your hand.
  4. Squeeze the pump rapidly with the opposite hand and stop when the gauge reads 30 points above your usual systolic pressure. 
  5. Turn the knob on the pump toward you to slowly let the air out of it.
  6. Find your systolic pressure by letting the pressure fall 2 millimeters (or 2 lines on the dial) noting when you hear the first heartbeat.
  7. Note when you no longer can hear the beating sounds. That is your diastolic pressure.
  8. Record your numbers and rest for a few minutes

Automated blood pressure machines

You can measure your blood pressure by using an automated blood pressure machine. Their main advantage is that they are suitable for home use and sufficiently accurate.

The steps to use an automated blood pressure machine are listed below:  

  • Sit at a table or a desk 
  • Before measuring your blood pressure, quietly sit and rest for around three minutes
  • Rest the arm evenly against  your heart, stretching out your arm with the palm upward
  • Position the cuff on your bare upper arm, an inch above the bend of your elbow
  • Make sure that the cuff is even and tight around your arm. Avoid a situation where your skin is pinched when the cuff inflates
  • Be quiet and remain still when the machine begins measuring after pressing ‘start’
  • The cuff will inflate and slowly deflate, allowing the machine to measure your blood pressure
  • Once the reading is complete, the monitor will show your blood pressure and pulse on the screen
  • Record the data. You can do so by writing the information down or by entering the numbers into an electronic health record. Some monitors are designed to automatically upload your result into a mobile device or a computer. 

Using blood pressure apps

Blood pressure apps have been developed and introduced. However, these apps cannot really measure your blood pressure. Indeed, most of them are simply designed with the aim of tracking blood pressure and manually registering your blood pressure readings over time. These apps can also be helpful in reminding one to take blood pressure medications or to send the readings directly to the user’s doctor. 

Treatment

Without medications

Some of the best natural remedies for low blood pressure include:

  • Eating small meals frequently
  • Increasing the intake of salt 
  • Drinking water 
  • Avoiding alcohol consumption 

Some of the best treatments for high blood pressure include: 

  • Exercising regularly 
  • Reducing the intake of sodium
  • Avoiding alcohol and coffee consumption 
  • Refraining from smoking

Recommended foods to control blood pressure

Diet is an important element to consider. For people with hypertension, It is good to eat dark chocolate and eat food rich in potassium and calcium.  One should avoid refined carbs and food with added sugar. 

For those dealing with hypotension, it is good to drink coffee, carrot and beetroot juice, liquorice tea, almonds and complex carbs.

When to consult a doctor

It is always good, especially for people with high blood pressure, to check with your doctor every once in a while, especially when relevant and debilitating symptoms show often.
In the case of a hypertensive crisis, it is important to immediately call the emergency number and seek urgent medical care. 

Summary

In this article, the categories of blood pressure have been described along with the symptoms. Different methods to measure blood pressure, register and store your data have been presented. Information regarding advantages and disadvantages, and insights on diet and food to avoid have been included.

References

  1. Video: How to measure blood pressure using an automatic monitor.
  2. Can I check my blood pressure with my phone? [Internet]. eMedicineHealth. [cited 2022 Aug 25]. Available from: https://www.emedicinehealth.com/can_i_check_my_blood_pressure_with_my_phone/article_em.htm
  3. Narayana Health. Best home remedies for low Blood Pressure [Internet]. Narayana Health Care. 2022 [cited 2022 Aug 25]. Available from: https://www.narayanahealth.org/blog/best-home-remedies-for-low-blood-pressure/
  4. William J. High blood pressure (hypertension): Everything you need to know. Independently Published; 2021.
  5. Video: How to measure blood pressure using a manual monitor.
  6. Taking your pulse and blood pressure [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic. [cited 2022 Aug 25]. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/17062-heart--bood-vessels-simple-clues-to-your-heart
  7. Low Blood Pressure (Hypotension). In: PCEP Book 3: Neonatal Care. American Academy of PediatricsItasca, IL; 2021. p. 161–85.
  8. High blood pressure symptoms and treatment [Internet]. RWJBarnabas Health. [cited 2022 Aug 25]. Available from: https://www.rwjbh.org/treatment-care/heart-and-vascular-care/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/
  9. Blood pressure test [Internet]. nhs.uk. [cited 2022 Aug 25]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/blood-pressure-test/
  10. Blood pressure vs. Heart rate (pulse) [Internet]. www.heart.org. [cited 2022 Aug 25]. Available from: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/the-facts-about-high-blood-pressure/blood-pressure-vs-heart-rate-pulse
  11. Bard DM, Joseph JI, van Helmond N. Cuff-less methods for blood pressure telemonitoring. Front Cardiovasc Med [Internet]. 2019;6:40. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fcvm.2019.00040

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