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Know Your Numbers

Know Your Numbers week started this Monday to raise awareness and understanding around blood pressure issues. You may have seen blood pressure testing stations at a variety of locations from shopping centres to health clubs. But since for the rest of the year many of us will be checking our blood pressure from home, we thought we'd take this opportunity to go over exactly what those numbers on your machine mean.

Testing your blood pressure

Your home blood pressure device will have specific instructions on how to get the best reading, as all machines are different - but there are still a number of things you can do to improve the accuracy and make the process simpler and easier:

- Blood pressure, much like weight, fluctuates throughout the day, so you should always take a reading at around the same time each day to get a sense of when it is rising and falling.

- Find a quiet place to carry out your blood pressure test, where you can sit quietly without feeling crowded or rushed. This will make you more relaxed and the test will be a lot less hassle!

- Keep a record of each reading so that you can spot any very gradual changes. If you have a smartphone you can download apps which will record this information on a graph for you, allowing you to see the peaks and dips as they happen.

Interpreting the numbers

Your doctor may have given you an ideal blood pressure based on your age, weight and taking into account any health concerns - but what do those numbers really mean? The whole reading is designed to express your "systemic circulation". Basically, this is the highest and lowest pressures exerted in your arteries with each heartbeat as the blood is pumped through.

- The top number is your systolic pressure. This is the maximum level of pressure taking place in your arteries, when your heart beats and the level of blood passing through is at its highest.

- The bottom number is your diastolic pressure, the lowest amount of pressure. This is usually between heartbeats, when blood is not being actively pushed through your arteries.
While blood pressure can usually be considered healthy at anywhere between 90/60 and 140/90, only your doctor can really tell you what measurements you should be receiving, as there are a number of health factors to take into consideration!

Whether you're using a manual pump or a digital machine, taking your blood pressure can be a frustrating process. Hopefully with this information at hand you can at least put your measurements into context, and use it to understand the principle of keeping an eye on your health. If you'd like to talk to somebody about your blood pressure, you'll find experts stationed around the UK with Know Your Numbers over the week - find your closest free blood pressure check here, where you can ask any additional questions you might have!
Know Your Numbers takes place from the 16th to the 22nd of September 2013. The information here was provided by Health-on-Line and sourced from the NHS and Blood Pressure UK.

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