What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure is the force exerted on your artery walls as your heart pumps blood through your body. A blood pressure reading consists of two numbers: systolic pressure (higher number) and diastolic pressure (lower number). These values are displayed in mmHg, or millimeters of mercury, with systolic readings written above or before the diastolic readings. Blood pressure measurements are commonly expressed as systolic "over" diastolic. For example, a blood pressure measurement of 120/80 mmHg is expressed verbally as "120 over 80."
What is systolic and diastolic pressure?
Your heart is like a pump. When your heart muscle contracts, blood flows from your heart out through your arteries, and the pressure increases. The pressure measured at this point is the higher number (systolic blood pressure). When the heart muscle relaxes, it begins to fill again with blood, and the pressure decreases. This is the lower reading (diastolic blood pressure). These two readings provide important information about the health of a person. Both readings are measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).
What are the criteria for high blood pressure (hypertension)?
The American Heart Association (AHA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) define high blood pressure (hypertension) for adults as systolic blood pressure of 140 mmHg or higher, or a diastolic blood pressure of 90 mmHg or higher. Blood pressure of less than 120 mmHg systolic and less than 80 mmHg diastolic is considered normal.
If the systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels fall in different categories, the higher category is used to determine the person's status. For instance, someone who has high systolic pressure (140 mmHg or higher), and a normal diastolic pressure would be considered to have high blood pressure or hypertension.
This classification is intended to serve as a general guideline. Your blood pressure target depends on multiple factors, including your age, whether or not you have other health issues, your cardiovascular risk factors, and the treatment strategy used by your doctor. Multiple measurements are needed for a complete assessment and only your doctor can determine the appropriate risk classification for you.1
Why is high blood pressure important? Existence of high blood pressure is a sign that the heart has to work extra hard to maintain blood supply to your body and vital organs. High blood pressure damages the arteries of the body. This damage leads to arteriosclerosis, or the hardening of the arteries, which can then further lead to organ damage.
High blood pressure is a critical risk factor for conditions such as heart failure and stroke, which are among the leading causes of death in the United States.
What are the symptoms?
Most people with high blood pressure have no symptoms at all, and would not be aware of their blood pressure unless it was measured. This is why high blood pressure is often referred to as the "silent killer."
In rare situations, people with a form of high blood pressure called malignant hypertension may experience symptoms related to blood pressure. These symptoms include a severe headache, blurred vision, light-headedness or nausea. If you have these symptoms, it is recommended you see your doctor immediately. It is estimated that about 1% of people with high blood pressure suffer from malignant hypertension.3
How common is high blood pressure?
Hypertension is estimated to cause about 13% of all deaths in the world. In the United States, the National Institute of Health estimates that about one in three American adults has high blood pressure. Almost one fifth (21.3%) of the people with high blood pressure are not aware of their condition. It is estimated that about 90% of middle–aged adults will develop high blood pressure sometime during the remainder of their lifetime.
In the United States, the prevalence of hypertension is higher among African-Americans than in Caucasians. High blood pressure is particularly common among African-American women, 44% of whom have this condition.2
In 5-10% of cases, hypertension is caused by some other underlying condition, such as kidney disorders, congenital abnormalities, and narrowing of certain arteries. This form of hypertension is called secondary hypertension. Often times, if the underlying condition is treated, blood pressure can return to its normal levels.
A third type of hypertension is called pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH). Sometimes called gestational hypertension, this condition happens only during pregnancy.2
What does it mean to have "low blood pressure"?
Although lower blood pressure is generally desirable, low blood pressure, also known as hypotension, can be a cause for concern if it causes dizziness, fainting or in extreme cases, shock. A blood pressure reading of 90/60 mmHg or lower is generally considered low blood pressure. You should consult your doctor if you have severely low blood pressure as that can be a sign of serious heart, endocrine or neurological disorders.
Should my blood pressure always be the same?
No. Blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day and can be influenced by several factors (e.g. time of day, stress level, physical activity, diet, alcohol, coffee, smoking). As shown in the chart below, even consecutive measurements can give you slightly different results. This is part of the reason why multiple measurements are necessary to provide a complete understanding of your blood pressure.
Your blood pressure is generally at its lowest level at night and rises in the morning as you get out of bed. Blood pressure typically peaks in the middle of the afternoon and begins to decline starting late afternoon and into the evening.
Blood pressure readings taken from a healthy 31-year-old male, measured at 5-minute intervals
Why should I measure my blood pressure at home?
Many doctors and healthcare professionals strongly recommend home blood pressure monitoring. Braun blood pressure monitors enable people to check their blood pressure at different times of the day. This type of regular home monitoring engages patients in their own treatment and helps them track the effects of medication and lifestyle changes in a comfortable and familiar environment.
For many people, a visit to the doctor's office can be a source of anxiety. Measurements taken in this setting can be above their usual level, an effect known as "white-coat syndrome". Measurements taken in the comfort of your home, however, are often preferred to those taken at the doctor's office because they more closely represent your everyday blood pressure.
Measuring your blood pressure at home between doctor's visits and keeping a record of your readings can help your doctor diagnose and possibly prevent certain health problems in the future. A free Blood Pressure Tracker is available on our website.
Should I monitor my blood pressure at home?
High blood pressure is a serious health problem, which can easily go undetected. The good news is that high blood pressure can generally be treated effectively once detected and taking measurements at home is an easy way to keep tabs on your blood pressure.
In the United States, the prevalence of high blood pressure is higher among people of African-American heritage than it is among other ethic groups. African-Americans also experience more severe cases of high blood pressure and tend to experience the condition earlier in life.5
Additionally, some women experience high blood pressure during their pregnancy, a condition called Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH). Because this could be dangerous for the mother and the baby, doctors frequently keep a close eye on blood pressure during pregnancy.
What is 'White Coat Hypertension' or 'White Coat Syndrome'?
'White Coat Hypertension' is the popular name given to the rise in blood pressure that occurs when it is measured in a hospital or doctor's office. Someone who does not have high blood pressure under normal conditions might be diagnosed as hypertensive if the diagnosis is based purely on a single measurement taken in such a setting.
An estimated one in four people who appear to have mild hypertension may actually have normal blood pressure once measurements are taken outside the doctor's office.4
Often times, your doctor may suggest taking blood pressure measurements at home with a blood pressure measuring device. Home blood pressure monitoring provides valuable information to your doctor and is one of the most effective ways to track and manage your blood pressure. Measuring your blood pressure at home with Braun ExactFit, ExactFit Plus, or VitalScan Plus can help you take the next step toward managing your blood pressure.
What are the risk factors for high blood pressure?
Certain traits, conditions, or habits have strong links to high blood pressure. Some of these are controllable factors, which means that making lifestyle modifications while in the care of a physician can help you keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.
Weight. Being overweight or obese increases your likelihood of developing high blood pressure. Fortunately, losing weight can help you lower your blood pressure. A proper diet and regular physical activity can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight.
Diet. A diet with high salt (sodium) or inadequate potassium content can contribute to high blood pressure. Substituting salt with other spices and eating a diet rich in high-potassium foods (e.g. bananas, raisins, oranges, cantaloupe) can help lower your blood pressure.
Lifestyle. Smoking and consuming too much alcohol can contribute to elevated blood pressure levels. Lack of regular physical activity and exercise, as well as high levels of stress can also be potential risk factors.
Age. In the Unites States, high blood pressure is more common among the elderly than younger populations. This is due to the reduced blood vessel elasticity that occurs as a result of aging. Men over the age of 45 and women over the age of 55 have a higher risk of having high blood pressure. The risk of a problem occurring in a younger person is usually low, but if blood pressure remains elevated, it will increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes in later years.
Ethnicity. Hypertension can affect all ethnic groups. However, African American adults are at increased risk of developing high blood pressure. African Americans tend to get high blood pressure earlier in life and often have more severe cases of the condition. Risk levels vary among different groups of Hispanic American adults. In a 2002 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Puerto Rican Americans had higher rates of high blood pressure-related death than Caucasians. Mexican Americans had a similar rate to that of Caucasians and Cuban Americans had a lower rate of high blood pressure-related death than Caucasians and other Hispanic groups.1
Family History. Heredity plays a role in hypertension as well. People with a family history of high blood pressure are at an increased risk of developing the condition during their lifetime. That's why it's important that you speak with a physician now about the history of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease in your family.
Other Conditions. People suffering from certain chronic conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol and kidney disease have a higher likelihood of having or developing high blood pressure.2
Pregnancy. There is a form of high blood pressure that occurs during pregnancy called "Pregnancy-Induced Hypertension" or "PIH". It is estimated that PIH appears in 5 to 8 percent of all pregnancies.3
How accurate are Braun blood pressure monitors?
All Braun devices offer very high and clinically tested accuracy. When buying a blood pressure monitor, look for a product that has been independently validated according to the international clinical standards.
All products in the Braun line have been independently validated against one or more of these international clinical standards for blood pressure monitors:
VitalScan Plus: AAMI SP10 (U.S. Association for the Advancement of Medical Instruments) and ESH (European Society of Hypertension)
ExactFit: AAMI SP10 (U.S. Association for the Advancement of Medical Instruments)
ExactFit Plus: AAMI SP10 (U.S. Association for the Advancement of Medical Instruments)
How do Braun monitors detect blood pressure?
Braun blood pressure monitors use the oscillometric method of blood pressure measurement. This means the monitor detects blood movement through the arteries in the wrist (arteria radialis/ateria ulnaris) or the upper arm (brachial artery) and converts the movements into a digital reading through a pressure sensor.
The main disadvantages of wrist monitors are their sensitivity during their use. Because the wrist is naturally more mobile than the upper arm, wrist measurements are more sensitive to movements during measurement. As for positioning, it is extremely important that the cuff is positioned at heart level during a measurement.
Upper arm monitors are generally larger and bulkier than wrist devices. Compared to a wrist monitor, an upper arm device may be more difficult to use for the inexperienced user because this method requires the placement of the cuff around the arm.
Do wrist devices provide reliable measurements?
Yes. There are two arteries in the wrist located directly under the skin, an area that is typically not covered with thick layers of fatty tissue. This makes the wrist a suitable place to take blood pressure measurements.
Wrist devices can measure blood pressure reliably, if validated according to international test-protocols (e.g. AAMI SP10 or ESH) and handled correctly (e.g. measurement taken at heart level, cuff placed and fitted correctly).
Are home monitoring devices right for everyone?
People who suffer from certain kinds of arrhythmias cannot use automatic oscillometric devices, as the device will not be able to correctly interpret the pulse waves that are needed to measure blood pressure. This is the same for all the oscillometric devices on the market. Some people suffering from arteriosclerosis or other diseases that affect the arterial system or the measurement conditions could also have difficulties in using an automatic oscillometric device.
People with diabetes may have hardened artery walls in the wrist area, which can make measurement with an oscillometric device inaccurate. People with any of the following conditions: cardiac arrhythmia, vascular constriction, arteriosclerosis in extremities, diabetes, dialysis patients or users of cardiac pacemakers should consult their doctor before using blood pressure monitors.
What does the irregular heartbeat detection feature do?
Irregular heartbeat is a type of heart rhythm problem (also called arrhythmia). It is a sign that your heart is beating too quickly, too slowly, or just following an irregular pattern. Whereas these irregularities are common and usually not harmful, some may be a symptom of a more serious condition.1
Braun ExactFit Plus has a built-in irregular heartbeat detection feature. If a certain heartbeat irregularity was detected during measurement, the icon will appear on the display. A heartbeat rhythm that is 25% more or less than the average heartbeat interval is usually defined as an irregular heartbeat rhythm. Talking, moving, shaking, or an irregular pulse during the measurement can result in the appearance of this symbol. Usually, this is not a cause for concern; however, if this symbol appears often, we recommend you seek medical advice. Please note that this device does not replace a cardiac examination, but serves to detect pulse irregularities at an early stage.
As a safeguard, if you have arrhythmias such as atrial or ventricular premature beats and atrial fibrillation or any other special conditions, we recommend that you check with your doctor before using your device.
What does the morning hypertension detection feature do?
For some people, measurements taken in the morning may be quite a bit higher than measurements taken in the evening hours. Recent research suggests that a higher surge in blood pressure in the morning hours may be associated with increased risk of strokes. 2
Braun ExactFit Plus is equipped with a feature designed to help you keep a close eye on these variations. When an average systolic blood pressure of 135 mmHg or higher is detected along with a 20 mmHg increase from evening to morning, the Morning Hypertension Detection icon will appear on the display.
Time of day: As your blood pressure changes throughout the day, try to take regular measurements at the same time of the day. For instance, measure once every morning when you wake up and once every evening about half an hour after you have eaten.
Measuring arm: It is also important to consistently take measurements using the same measuring arm, for instance, your left arm, to be able to compare readings.
Relax: Before you start measuring you blood pressure, try and find time to relax by sitting in a chair in a quiet area for at least 5 minutes. Make sure you have some back support when you sit and put your feet flat on the ground. Try to relax your arm.
Remain still: Remain still and do not cross your legs during a measurement. As the cuff begins to inflate, try not to move abruptly, speak, cough, shake or laugh.
Fit: Proper cuff fit is critical for measurement accuracy. In both upper arm and wrist units, the cuff should fit snuggly, but should not be too tight. There should be about enough room to fit one finger between the cuff and your arm or wrist.
Positioning: For wrist measurements, pay special attention to holding your monitor at heart level during measurements. When using an upper arm monitor, place the cuff directly over your brachial artery as shown in your owner's manual.
Time between measurements: Because blood pressure is constantly changing, you may find that some readings may be higher or lower than you expect. In this case, feel free to repeat the measurement, but make sure you wait 3-5 minutes between each reading. This allows the tissue to return to their normal condition after each measurement.
Variations in blood pressure. Blood pressure is not a static value and may change with each heartbeat, even while resting. Both your systolic (higher number) and your diastolic (lower number) blood pressure may vary by up to 30 mmHg with each heartbeat in healthy individuals. These variations can be considerably greater in individuals with certain cardiovascular conditions.
Insufficient rest before taking a reading. This is among the most common causes of inaccurate results from self-measurement of blood pressure. If your circulation has not had time to adjust to a steady resting state, the systolic, diastolic and pulse values may vary substantially relative to your normal resting value. This is also true when taking subsequent measurements.
Disruptions during measurement. Abrupt movements, such as coughing, laughing, sneezing and speaking, even activities such as watching television may lead to incorrect readings. Measurements should therefore be carried out under relaxed conditions where no distractions are present.
Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmias). Cardiac rhythm disorders can cause inaccurate readings or may result in measurement errors. If you have such a condition, check with your doctor to see if home blood pressure measurements are right for you.
Handling errors. Handling mistakes, such as not measuring at heart level (for wrist monitors) and poor cuff placement, are among top causes of inaccurate blood pressure measurements.
How often should I measure my blood pressure?
Your doctor can help you determine how often and when you need to measure your blood pressure. When you first use your Braun monitor, make sure you get used to the new device by taking several measurements. Once you are acquainted with the device, it is a good idea to take 3 measurements over the course of the day, using the same measuring arm and maintaining similar measuring conditions. The average of these results represents your blood pressure. You may consider using a tracking tool like the Braun BP Tracker to log your recordings and take them to your next doctor’s appointment.
Can blood pressure be measured on both arms?
Blood pressure can be measure on both left and right side of the body. However, the arterial system can be different between your left arm and your right arm. To ensure comparable measurements, it is advisable to always measure using the same arm or wrist.
Why is it important to measure blood pressure at heart level?
Blood pressure measurements change depending on the level they are taken because gravity has an effect on the pressure in your arteries. Values are generally lower if measured at a higher level than the heart and higher if measurements are taken below the heart level.
Upper arm cuffs automatically line up with your heart because of where the cuff is placed. For wrist monitors, however, positioning at heart level is a critical factor for accuracy. This is a common cause of measurement error, but it can easily be prevented.
Why is proper cuff fit (tightness) important?
A cuff that is too tight may produce readings that are lower and conversely, a loose fit can yield readings that are higher than your actual blood pressure. Furthermore, a less than an ideal fit will add to the variability of subsequent readings.
How large is the blood pressure cuff?
Braun blood pressure cuffs are designed to fit most users. Braun' wrist cuff is suitable for use with a wrist circumference of 5”-8”. Braun' upper arm cuffs can be used by people whose arm circumference is between 9”-17”.
What is the warranty coverage for Braun blood pressure monitors?
These products are covered under warranty for 5 years commencing on the date of purchase. Within the warranty period we will eliminate, free of charge, any defects in the device resulting from faults in materials or workmanship, either by repairing or replacing the complete device as we may choose.
This warranty does not cover: damage due to improper use, normal wear or use as well as defects that have a negligible effect on the value or operation of the device. The warranty becomes void if repairs are undertaken by unauthorized persons and if original Braun parts are not used.
Is it normal to get different readings?
Blood pressure constantly changes throughout the day. As shown in the chart below, blood pressure rises sharply in the early morning and declines during the late morning. Blood pressure rises again in the afternoon and finally drops to a low level at night. Also, it may vary in a short period of time and even fluctuate up to 30 mmHg between two measurements.
Blood pressure readings taken from a healthy 31-year-old male, measured at 5-minute intervals
Wait approximately 3 minutes and repeat the measurement. Be aware that blood pressure constantly changes throughout the day. Measurements should not be taken within 30 minutes of smoking, or drinking coffee or tea.