Monitoring your blood pressure
At Melbourne Heart Care, we understand the vital role that blood pressure monitoring plays in maintaining your cardiovascular health.
By measuring blood pressure (BP), we gain valuable insights into your heart’s functioning and the overall condition of your circulatory system. Regular monitoring allows us to detect and manage hypertension, a condition that poses significant risks to your well-being. If you have other risk factors, such as a family history of heart disease, monitoring also allows your doctor to closely monitor the health of your heart.
What is BP monitoring?
Your heart pumps blood, pushing it out and into your arteries and veins. Blood pressure measures the amount of this force as it travels and is represented by:
- Systolic Blood Pressure: This shows how well your heart is pumping blood. It represents the pressure exerted on the walls of your blood vessels (arteries) with each beat of your heart.
- Diastolic Blood Pressure: This shows the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart is resting. It reflects the resistance in your arteries and veins and is an indicator of how well your arteries relax and allow blood to flow through.
- Pulse Pressure: This is the difference between the two pressures. This number provides insights into the health of your heart and circulatory system.
This number is typically measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and presented as systolic pressure over diastolic, such as 120/80mmHg.
BP monitoring provides essential information about your cardiovascular health, allowing healthcare professionals to identify and diagnose conditions such as high blood pressure (hypertension), risk factors for cardiovascular disease and to assess the effectiveness of treatments.
What are the different types of monitoring available?
At Melbourne Heart Care, we provide various methods of monitoring to suit your specific needs. These include:
- In-Clinic Blood Pressure Measurement: Our skilled healthcare professionals will accurately measure your pressure using specialised equipment at our clinic. This method is ideal for initial assessments and periodic check-ups.
- Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitoring (ABPM): ABPM involves wearing a portable monitor for an extended period, typically 24 hours. It provides a comprehensive profile of your blood pressure throughout the day and night, helping us identify any irregularities.
- Home Blood Pressure Monitoring (HBPM): HBPM allows you to monitor your blood pressure in the comfort of your own home. With guidance, you can use a reliable monitor to track your readings regularly, providing valuable information for ongoing management.
Why do people have BP monitoring?
There are many reasons your GP or cardiologist may recommend you have regular checks of your blood pressure, either in person or with ABPM or HBPM.
- Identifying and diagnosing hypertension, enabling timely intervention.
- Assessing the effectiveness of medications for lowering blood pressure (antihypertensives).
- Monitoring blood pressure to identify fluctuations throughout the day.
- Detecting white coat hypertension (where your pressure rises due to stress or anxiety in a clinical setting) or masked hypertension (where you notice your pressure is high elsewhere, but in a clinical setting it returns to normal).
- Tracking blood pressure changes in response to lifestyle modifications.
- If you have risk factors for heart disease, experience chest pain or have signs of kidney disease.
What are the complications of untreated high blood pressure?
Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to severe complications, including:
- Heart attack: Elevated blood pressure strains the heart, causing chest pain and increasing the risk of heart muscle damage.
- Other organ damage can lead to eye issues or heart failure.
- Stroke: High blood pressure damages vessels in the brain, potentially leading to a stroke.
- Kidney failure: The kidneys’ ability to filter waste products from the blood can be compromised by untreated high blood pressure, leading to chronic kidney disease and possibly failure.
- Peripheral vascular disease (PVD): Persistent high blood pressure can damage vessels in the legs, reducing circulation and causing pain.
How to have your blood pressure measured
To ensure accurate results it is essential to follow the correct procedures, according to which method of monitoring you are having.
For all methods, we advise that you take a few minutes to rest and relax before the blood pressure measurement. Avoid any strenuous activities, caffeine, smoking, or consuming large meals or beverages containing alcohol prior to the measurement.
For an in-clinic measurement, your GP or cardiologist will use a sphygmomanometer. This device is made up of a pressure gauge and an inflatable cuff that wraps around your upper arm. A stethoscope or electronic sensor is placed over the pulse in your arm (usually the crease of the elbow). As the pressure is slowly released from the cuff the sensor and stethoscope will record your systolic and diastolic pressures.
ABPM uses an automated device, where a blood pressure cuff is placed on your upper arm and your pressure is checked at regular intervals. At home, you will also use an automated device for regularly checking blood pressure.
Proper cuff placement and positioning
Choose the correct cuff size: The cuff should fit your arm properly for accurate readings. If the cuff is too large or too small it will result in an inaccurate measurement. Our healthcare professional will select the appropriate cuff size for you.
Arm positioning: Rest your arm on a flat surface and keep it straight.
Sit upright: Sit upright in a chair with your feet flat on the ground.
Proper cuff placement: Wrap the cuff around your upper arm, so the lower edge of the cuff is above your elbow and it is pulled firm.
Preparing for an In-Clinic test
We recommend you wear clothing with loose-fitting or short sleeves, so your arm is easily exposed and the cuff of your sleeve doesn’t cut in.
Aim to arrive at your appointment early, so you have time to calm yourself before your measurement and go to the toilet if needed.
Recommendations for ABPM or HBPM
Here are some recommendations for ambulatory measurements or taking blood pressure at home.
- Choose a calm, comfortable environment where you can relax and minimise external distractions.
- If you’re using an ambulatory monitoring device, our healthcare professional will provide detailed instructions for setting up and wearing the device. Follow the recommended schedule for cuff inflation and deflation, as well as any additional instructions provided.
- If you’re using a home monitoring device, carefully read the device’s instruction manual for accurate usage. Ensure that the device is properly calibrated and follow the recommended procedure for positioning the cuff, obtaining readings, and recording results.
Common mistakes to avoid
To obtain accurate measurements, it’s important to avoid these common mistakes:
- Talking or moving during the measurement.
- Crossing or moving your legs.
- Improper cuff placement.
- Using a cuff that is too tight or too loose.
- Putting the cuff over your sleeve.
Understanding the results of your blood pressure reading
Based on your blood pressure readings, your results can be broken down into different classifications:
|Class||Top number (systolic)||Bottom number (diastolic)|
|Normal||120 to 129||80 to 84|
|High-normal (elevated)||130 to 139||85 to 89|
|High (hypertension)||Greater than 140||Greater than 90|
Your cardiologist and GP will interpret the results of your blood pressure at home, ambulatory measurements or in-clinic readings and provide appropriate advice.
Melbourne Heart Care’s dedicated team of specialists
At Melbourne Heart Care, we are dedicated to your cardiovascular well-being and helping you achieve ideal blood pressure. Having your blood pressure checked regularly is an essential step towards maintaining a healthy heart, and we are here to help. You can consult with our healthcare professionals for further guidance and personalised cardiovascular care.
- Phone: 03 9592 2177
- Fax: 03 9592 3177
- Postal Address: Suite 16, 3 Male Street, Brighton 3186
Where to find usWe provide consultations and a comprehensive range of tests and treatments at our modern facilities, private hospitals or a public hospital near you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here’s a list of our commonly asked questions about high blood pressure and monitoring.
As your blood is pumped by your heart, it is forced out of your heart chambers and into your blood vessels (arteries and veins). Your blood pressure measures that force with two numbers: your systolic and diastolic pressures. These numbers show the force of your blood (systolic) with each beat of your heart, and the relaxation of your vessels (diastolic) and are an indication of how healthy your heart and circulatory system are.
Knowing what your pressure helps your doctors understand how well your heart is working and if there are any problems or potential health conditions. Untreated or very high blood pressure can lead to serious health issues like worsened cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, strokes or kidney damage.
There are 3 common ways to monitor blood pressure:
- In-clinic measurement: where you attend a doctor’s appointment and a professional uses a cuff and machine to measure your pressure.
- An ambulatory blood pressure monitor, or ABPM is where you wear a portable device that automatically takes your pressure at regular intervals.
- A home blood pressure monitor is where you use a small device to measure your pressure on your own, at various times.
Your blood pressure varies throughout the day, depending on your level of activity. However, it naturally increases in the hours after waking, most often highest around midday.
Coping with hypertension involves medications (if very high blood pressure) and lifestyle changes to help maintain ideal levels or lower blood pressure. This includes:
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet
- Decreasing your salt intake
- Exercising regularly
- Maintaining a healthy weight and losing weight
- Stop smoking
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
Hypertension is another term for very high blood pressure, usually with readings greater than 140/90. If left untreated, it can lead to damage to your blood vessels and organs such as the heart, brain, eyes and kidneys. It may increase your risk of heart attacks, strokes and other serious health issues.
Whilst it may not always be clear, there are several factors that contribute to hypertension:
- Family history of heart disease and hypertension
- Unhealthy lifestyle, like poor diet, physical inactivity, being overweight or obese, smoking and excessive drinking.
- Some medical conditions, such as diabetes, may also contribute.
High blood pressure is also known as the “silent disease”, as generally there are no obvious symptoms. This is why having your blood pressure checked regularly is so important.