Measurement of blood pressure

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Blood pressure readings are performed as part of the skill set, vital signs. Blood pressure can be described as the force of blood pushing against the walls of the blood vessels as the heart contracts and relaxes (Koutoukidis, Stainton & Hughson, 2017).  Measuring blood pressure (BP) comprises of two readings because the blood moves in waves; systolic pressure and diastolic pressure.

Systolic pressure is the greatest force exerted on the walls of the arteries by the heart as the ventricles contract. The range of a normal systolic pressure is between 100 and 120 millimeters of mercury (mmHg). An elevated systolic pressure is considered to be above 140 mmHg (Koutoukidis et al, 2017).

Diastolic pressure is the least force exerted on the walls of the arteries by the heart as it relaxes between ventricular contractions. The range of a normal diastolic pressure is between 60 and 80 mmHg.  An elevated diastolic pressure is considered to be above 90 mmHg (Koutoukidis et al, 2017).

It is important to note that blood pressure measurements are not performed on the affected arm of a person:

  • who has had a mastectomy or an arteriovenous (AV) shunt or fistula.
  • with intravenous therapy (IVT) is insitu or
  • with a plaster cast
  • where trauma, burns or paralysis are present

In addition, blood pressure measurement should be performed at least 30 minutes after exercise, caffeine or nicotine to avoid inaccurate readings being recorded.

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