Although most hospitals and doctor offices now have digital blood pressure machines, it is still important to teach the basics of taking a manual blood pressure reading. When I was a nurse assistant, I was taught to take a patient’s blood pressure using a stethoscope and blood pressure cuff. Taking an accurate blood pressure on an actual patient was much trickier than I suspected!
High blood pressure is also called hypertension. It is sometimes referred to as the “silent killer” because most of the time it has no symptoms and needs to be diagnosed as part of a doctor visit. High blood pressure can cause serious health conditions including heart failure, sudden cardiac death, or a stroke.
Blood pressure differs from patient to patient, and each heart beats differently. Sometimes, a digital blood pressure machine reading isn’t accurate due to volume or speed of a particular patient’s heart. In this case, students should know how to perform a manual blood pressure reading.
Blood Pressure Facts
There are two numbers to note when taking a blood pressure:
- Systolic blood pressure (the first number) – indicates how much pressure blood exerts against artery walls when the heart beats.
- Diastolic blood pressure (the second number) – indicates how much pressure blood exerts against artery walls while the heart is resting between beats.
The chart below shows healthy and unhealthy blood pressure levels.
To maintain a healthy blood pressure, healthcare professionals suggest:
- Eating a well-balanced diet low in sodium
- Exercising regularly
- Maintaining the recommended weight for your age, height, and sex
- Visit your doctor regularly.
Healthcare professionals may prescribe medications in order to control hypertension. The top three categories of medications prescribed are diuretics, Beta-blockers, and ACE inhibitors.
- Diuretics: Help the body help reduce excess water and salt, which in turn helps control blood pressure. This particular class of medication is usually used with additional prescription therapies.
- Beta-blockers: Reduces the heart’s workload, output of blood, and rate, which lowers blood pressure.
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors: Helps the body produce less angiotensin, which is a type of hormone that causes vasoconstriction. ACE inhibitors relax the blood vessels to become wider.
Pocket Nurse offers over 20 blood pressure products, both manual and digital, for simulation and teaching purposes. Some items include but are not limited to diagnostic sets, different types of blood pressure cuffs, different stethoscopes, Advantage Plus Auto Digital Blood Pressure, Welch Allyn Mobile Aneroid, etc.
Giving students an opportunity to learn through simulation experience and education before working with a live patient decreases their fear and strengthens their confidence, knowledge, and allows small room for error.
Amanda Larkin is the Pocket Nurse Sales Intern for Summer 2019. She is pursuing a degree at the University of Pittsburgh in Health Services, and she has worked as a medical assistant, physician assistant aide, and marketing intern.