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Blood pressure (BP) is the amount of force that the heart uses to circulate blood throughout the body. When this pressure increases, blood races through the body which may cause damage to our arteries and veins - this may lead to conditions such as a heart attack or a stroke

Measuring blood pressure on a regular basis can help you prevent health hazards like heart failure, stroke or a brain aneurysm (abnormal bulge in the wall of an artery in the brain). The machine used to measure blood pressure is called the sphygmomanometer.

The blood pressure is measured in two figures:

  • Systolic blood pressure (the first pressure): It is the pressure that the heart exerts when it pushes the blood out to the artery wall while beating. 
  • Diastolic blood pressure (the second pressure): It is the pressure that the heart exerts while the blood is getting refilled in the heart. It is the resting period of the heart in-between the heartbeats.

For instance, if your BP is 120/80 mm Hg, then 120 is your systolic BP and 80 is your diastolic BP.

Blood pressure is measured in mm Hg (millimetre of mercury), as mercury was the first element in the pressure gauges that helped in measuring the accurate blood pressure. Mercury is still used in the medical field as the standard unit of measurement for pressure.

  1. Blood pressure machine price
  2. Blood pressure machines types
  3. How to use a blood pressure machine
  4. What does your blood pressure machine reading mean?
  5. Benefits of blood pressure machine

The cost can vary depending on type and brand, but here’s a list of indicative prices of a blood pressure machine in most Indian cities:

  • Mercury blood pressure machine: The starting price of a mercury blood pressure machine is around Rs 1,700.  
  • Aneroid blood pressure machine: The starting price of the aneroid blood pressure machine is around Rs 700.
  • Digital blood pressure machine: The starting price of a digital blood pressure machine is around Rs 1,000.

There are two types of blood pressure measuring devices (sphygmomanometers) that are available in the market: manual and digital.

Read more: Homeopathic treatment, medicines, remedies for low blood pressure

Manual sphygmomanometer or manual blood pressure machine

You might have seen the manual blood pressure measuring device at your doctor's office: it consists of a cuff that goes around your arm, a reading scale or gauge and an inflation bulb that the doctor pumps to make the cuff tight for measuring BP. The doctor also uses a stethoscope along with this machine, placing it on your upper arm below the cuff. 

The cuff contains an inflatable bladder which swells up to constrict the blood vessels to measure blood pressure. The size of the cuff should be accurate or else it can give incorrect blood pressure readings.

The different sizes of cuffs are "small adult" cuff (8.7 to 10.2 inches), "adult" cuff (10.6 to 13.4 inches), "large" cuff (13.8 to 17.3 inches) and "adult thigh" cuff (17.7 to 20.5 inches).

There are two types of manual sphygmomanometers:

  • Mercury sphygmomanometer: The mercury sphygmomanometer is the gold standard for measuring blood pressure clinically. It comprises a machine box, a cuff, a rubber inflation bulb, a scaling board with a glass body in the middle filled with mercury.
  • Aneroid sphygmomanometer: This device was introduced to reduce the use of mercury, which has harmful effects (mercury toxicity) on the environment. The aneroid sphygmomanometer does not have a scaling board with the mercury - instead, it has a round gauge which has markings written over it. Though these devices do not have mercury, they are less accurate than the conventional mercury sphygmomanometers.

Read more: Ayurvedic remedies for low blood pressure

Digital sphygmomanometer or digital blood pressure machine

These devices were introduced in the medical field so that people could monitor their blood pressure on their own. These devices consist of a cuff and a digital monitor. You do not require a prescription to buy a digital sphygmomanometer. They are also used to measure ambulatory blood pressure. 

Ambulatory monitoring involves measuring blood pressure every 30 minutes with the help of a cuff (which is wrapped around the arm) and a small, portable, programmable monitor, which can be carried everywhere. The benefits of ambulatory monitoring are:

  • Convenience: The monitor is smaller than the usual digital device, so you can carry it around easily.
  • Separate white coat hypertension from high BP: Some people are a little stressed when they visit the doctor’s clinic, which spikes their blood pressure momentarily - this is known as white coat hypertension. Ambulatory monitoring helps to distinguish between white coat hypertension and actual high blood pressure in such cases.
  • Diagnose masked hypertension: In the case of masked hypertension, it is difficult to diagnose hypertension as the blood pressure is normal at the doctor’s clinic but elevates at home. Ambulatory monitoring helps in the diagnosis of this condition.

Both mercury and aneroid sphygmomanometer are manual blood pressure machines and require help from a second person whereas the digital sphygmomanometer does not require assistance. There are certain things you need to take care of before and while measuring blood pressure, as they can hamper the readings:

  • Avoid caffeine, exercise (even brisk walk) and smoking for at least 30 minutes before measuring blood pressure.
  • Keep the bladder empty before measuring blood pressure as it can increase the blood pressure.
  • Take the measurements on a bare arm and not over any clothing.
  • Do not talk while measuring the blood pressure.
  • If you need to measure the blood pressure again, wait for 5 minutes before measuring.

Read more: Homeopathy medicines for high blood pressure

How to use a manual blood pressure machine

You will need assistance to measure your blood pressure if you are using a manual blood pressure machine. You will also need a stethoscope in addition to the blood pressure machine. If you are using a manual sphygmomanometer to take a loved one’s blood pressure, follow these steps:

  • Ask the patient to rest their arm on a flat surface - their arm should be supported on a height, at the level of their heart.
  • Now place the portion of the cuff that contains the inflatable bladder directly over the crook (inside crease of the elbow) of the left arm. This is where the brachial artery is located which helps in measuring the blood pressure.
  • While wrapping the cuff around the arm, make sure that the lower edge of the cuff stays one-inch above the crook of the elbow (antecubital fossa). Fasten the cuff snugly but make sure there is a “two-finger” gap between the cuff and the arm.
  • Now take up the stethoscope, and place the chest piece (the part which is placed on the chest) of your stethoscope between the cuff and the arm. Make sure that the chest piece is located slightly inside to the centre of the antecubital fossa (crook of the elbow). 
  • Put the earpieces of the stethoscope in your ears with the tips directed forward.
  • Now, close the valve needle (also known as an airlock) attached to the hand control rubber bulb firmly by turning it clockwise. Do not close it too tight as it will get difficult to release it later.
  • Pump the rubber bulb to inflate to 20-30 mm Hg above the normal systolic pressure - inflate the cuff till or beyond 180 mm Hg. 
  • Then slowly release the airlock counterclockwise 2-3 mm per second. 
  • Listen to the sounds of the blood flow, called the Korotkoff sounds, in the earpiece. The Korotkoff sounds are clear and loud “tap; tap” sounds which denote the systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
  • Note the first number at which the sounds start, which would be the systolic blood pressure and then continue to release the airlock slowly. 
  • Mark the last number at which you could hear clear “tap” sounds as this would be your diastolic blood pressure.
  • Let the rest of the air out rapidly and let the patient relax for a while. 
  • If you need to confirm the measurements, wait for 5 minutes before checking the readings again.

Read more: Pulmonary hypertension: symptoms, causes, prevention, diagnosis, treatment

How to use a digital blood pressure machine

A digital sphygmomanometer is easier to use, and you can take your blood pressure without the assistance of another person. You also don’t need a stethoscope for this. 

Digital BP devices just have a cuff and a monitor. These devices not only measure blood pressure but also determine the heart rate. This is how you can use the digital sphygmomanometer:

  • Place the portion of the cuff that contains the inflatable bladder directly over the crook (inside crease of the elbow) of the left arm. This is where the brachial artery is located which helps in measuring the blood pressure.
  • While wrapping the cuff around the arm, make sure that the lower edge of the cuff stays one-inch above the crook of the elbow (antecubital fossa). Fasten the cuff snugly.
  • Then press the start button. The cuff starts inflating on its own to reach a pressure about 20 mm Hg above systolic pressure for any individual. 
  • When the cuff is fully inflated, no blood flows through the brachial artery. After the highest systolic pressure is achieved, the cuff starts to deflate on its own at a slow pace.
  • As the cuff deflates, the pressure over the constricted artery reduces and blood slowly starts passing through it. This creates a detectable vibration in the arterial wall.
  • This is transferred from the arterial wall to the air inside the cuff. Then the vibration travels to the transducer present in the monitor which converts the measurements into electrical signals. 
  • Thus the measurements of the blood pressure show up on the screen.

Read more: Foods to reduce and control blood pressure

Blood pressure measurements can be categorized into the following ranges:

  • Normal blood pressure:  Blood pressure is considered to be in normal limits when the readings are 120/80 mm Hg or less, but not below 90/60 mm Hg.
  • Low blood pressure: The state of low blood pressure is medically called hypotension. If your systolic blood pressure falls at or below 90 mm Hg and your diastolic is at or below 60 mm Hg, then it denotes low blood pressure. 
  • Elevated blood pressure: Blood pressure is said to be elevated if the systolic blood pressure ranges from 120 to 129 mm Hg and the diastolic pressure is at or below 80 mm Hg.
  • Stage 1 hypertension: Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. A person is called stage-1 hypertensive when their systolic pressure ranges from 130 to 139 mm Hg and the diastolic pressure ranges from 80 to 89 mm Hg.
  • Stage 2 hypertension: It is the more severe state of hypertension as the systolic pressure rises to 140 mm Hg or even higher and the diastolic pressure reaches 90 mm Hg or above.
  • Hypertensive crisis: When the systolic blood pressure crosses 180 mm and the diastolic blood pressure crosses 120, the person requires immediate medical care. If no medical care is given at this point, the person may suffer from multiple organ damage.

Read more: Ayurvedic remedies for high blood pressure

The benefits of a blood pressure machine are:

  • Measuring your blood pressure on a daily basis can help prevent sudden and severe health complications like heart failure, stroke and other organ damage. 
  • Digital blood pressure machines can help in monitoring ambulatory blood pressure 24 hours a day. Thus preventing any damage to the organs in future.
  • Digital blood pressure machines at home can help monitor the blood pressure of people who cannot go to the doctor on a regular basis like elderly people, bed-ridden people and pregnant women.

Read more: Gestational hypertension or high BP during pregnancy


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