High blood pressure or hypertension affects more people than one can possibly think. As more and more doctors recommend people to use home blood pressure monitors to keep a regular check on their blood pressure readings at home, there is a common debate regarding which type of blood pressure testing machines are better – automated or manual blood pressure readings. Keeping a tab on your blood pressure is important in monitoring your overall health as it provides crucial clues to how well your heart is functioning and pumping blood through your arteries. Blood pressures are considered to be one of the four major vital signs of your body, apart from heart rate, breathing rate and body temperature. If any of these vital signs are too high or too low, it is a signal that there is something wrong with your health and you should take corrective measures to fix the problem. To understand which monitor is better, we must first understand the nitty-gritty of blood pressure testing.
Overview of Blood Pressure Testing
Blood pressure testing measures the level of how hard your blood is pushing against the arterial walls as it moves through your body. It is recorded as two numbers:
- The first number, known as systolic pressure, shows how hard blood is pushing when your heart is pumping.
- The second number, known as diastolic pressure, shows how hard blood is pushing between the heartbeats – when the heart is relaxed and filling with blood.
If during a blood pressure test you are diagnosed with having higher numbers in either recording, then this indicates that your heart is working overtime to pump blood through your arteries. As doctors now recommend that you keep a track of your blood pressure regularly, it is better to first consult your doctor about how they would like you to monitor and record your blood pressure. It is possible that your doctor recommends that you check your pressure before or after taking certain medications, or even at particular times of the day.
Using an Automated Blood Pressure Testing Machine
Using an automated blood pressure testing machine is one of the easiest and most popular ways of measuring your own blood pressure at home. Automated blood pressure testing machines are very easy to use and they are also helpful for people who have a hearing impairment. These machines use an automatic blood pressure cuff. Such types of automated blood pressure machines have a digital monitor that display your blood pressure readings on the screen. These machines can be easily purchased online, at drugstores, grocery stores, or even at health food stores. Some stores can even call automated blood pressure machines as electronic or digital blood pressure monitors.
Automated blood pressure testing monitors usually have a microphone that detects the blood pulsating in the artery. The automated pressure cuff wraps around your upper arm and automatically inflates once your press the start button. There are some automated blood pressure machines that are used on the wrist, but these are not thought to be as reliable as the ones that use the arm cuffs. Wrist monitors should only be used by people who, for some physical reasons, cannot use the automated arm cuffs. Automated blood pressure testing devices that use finger monitors are better avoided and doctors do not recommend using these devices. Even the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends people to use an automatic, upper arm blood pressure monitor for using at home.
To keep track of your blood pressure, you should maintain a blood pressure log in a notebook or on your computer. This is helpful for your doctor. It is also possible to download a free log from the AHA website. It has been seen that automated blood pressure testing machines can provide you a different reading from a manual blood pressure machine. You may want to bring your automated cuff to your doctor’s office so that you can compare both the automated and manual blood pressure readings. This will help you calibrate your automated machine and also understand what blood pressure readings you should look for on your own machine.
Always purchase a high-quality automated blood pressure testing machine to ensure an error-free monitoring of your blood pressure.
Pros and Cons of Automated Blood Pressure Testing Machine
Automated blood pressure testing machines are extremely easy to use, minimize human error and is good for people with hearing loss. Most of these units are very portable and the design of the cuff makes it ideal for one-handed application. Some of the more expensive automated machines also have automatic inflation and deflation systems, have a built-in pulse measurement (measurement of your heart rate), and gives large, easy-to-read digital display.
The disadvantages of using an automated blood pressure testing machine are that you don’t really understand the way the machine works, the machines are fragile and also sensitive. Before you start maintaining your log, it is necessary that you check the accuracy of your device by comparing it with your doctor’s manual blood pressure machine. It has also been said that many of these automated blood pressure devices give varying results for many individuals. Body movements also impact the accuracy of blood pressure readings. Automated blood pressure testing monitors also tend to be expensive and may require factory repair and readjustment when a fault occurs with the machine.
Using a Manual Blood Pressure Testing Machine
Manually measuring your blood pressure is a bit of a complicated process. To begin with, you will first need a sphygmomanometer, which consists of a blood pressure cuff along with an aneroid monitor and a squeezable balloon for inflating and deflating the cuff. You will also need a stethoscope. An aneroid monitor is simply a number dial.
Using a manual blood pressure testing machine is not a one-person job and you will need someone to assist you as it is difficult to use manual blood pressure testing machine by yourself.
You need to be relaxed before measuring your blood pressure with a manual blood pressure machine. Now, position your arm straight and your palm should be facing up on a leveled surface such as a table. Place the cuff on your bicep and start squeezing the balloon to inflate the pressure cuff. You have to inflate the cuff by looking at the numbers on the aneroid monitor. You will need to inflate the cuff to about 20-30 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury) over your normal blood pressure. If you are unsure, then you can always consult your doctor to find out how much to inflate the cuff.
After you have inflated the pressure cuff, now place the stethoscope using the flat side down on the crease of your elbow. The major veins in your arm should be visible in this area. Make sure that you test out the stethoscope before using it so that you are able to hear it properly. Now begin to slowly deflate the balloon and listen through the stethoscope to heart a ‘whooshing’ sound of your blood flowing. You need to keep an eye on the aneroid monitor to check at which number you hear this sound. This number will be your systolic blood pressure.
You will now continue to hear the blood pulsing. You need to keep listening and continue to deflate the balloon to the point when this pulsing rhythm stops. At the point when the rhythm stops, you need to take note of that number as this will be your diastolic blood pressure. Similar to the automated blood pressure testing machine, you will record your blood pressure here also as systolic over diastolic.
Pros and Cons of a Manual Blood Pressure Testing Machine
The equipment for a manual blood pressure testing machine is usually inexpensive and lightweight. The aneroid gauge functions properly regardless of the position you place it in, as long as you are able to view the numbers directly. However, manual blood pressure testing machines are quite difficult to use and fairly delicate as well. It can also be damaged easily without the user even coming to know of it and will require factory repair and readjustment. Also, there is only one way of knowing whether your machine is giving accurate blood pressure readings or not – by checking it against a mercury sphygmomanometer at least once in a year if you bump it against something or drop it. It is difficult to position the gauge and not possible to apply the cuff by yourself. Measuring blood pressure with a manual blood pressure testing machine is a two-person job. Also, it is not ideal for the visually or hearing impaired.
Tips to Remember When Checking Blood Pressure Readings
To get an accurate blood pressure reading from either type of machine, remember to follow these tips:
- Ensure that the pressure cuff is the correct size for you, as cuffs come in different sizes, including pediatric sizes as well if you have particularly small arms. Test if it is the correct size for you by comfortably slipping in one finger between the cuff and your arm while the pressure is deflated.
- Do not smoke, drink, or exercise up to 30 minutes before measuring your blood pressure.
- When measuring your blood pressure, make sure that you are sitting with your back straight and feet flat on the floor. Do not cross your feet.
- Rest for five minutes before measuring your blood pressure reading. Take some more rest if you have been active just before your measurement.
- Measure your blood pressure readings at different times of the day and record the exact time of measurement.
At least once a year, bring your home monitor to the doctor’s office to calibrate it. The readings of both the monitors should ideally be within a few numbers of one another.
Now that you are aware of the pros and cons of both types of blood pressure testing machines, you will be able to decide best which machine suits your particular condition. Understand that monitoring your blood pressure readings is necessary and helps your doctor identify any potential issues early on. By taking a little time out every couple of days, you will be able to keep yourself safe from any spikes in blood pressure.
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