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Radio Shows | Measuring Blood Pressure | mp3wmawav

It's time for your annual physical and one of the first things a nurse checks is your blood pressure.

She places a cuff around your arm, pumps it up and then listens to an artery on your arm using a stethoscope. If it's around 120 over 80 you're doing great. Anything past 160 over 100 can spell trouble.

The reason measuring your blood pressure is important in that it's an indicator of your heart health. In fact, physicians have been listening to sounds from your heart since the Greek and Roman times but they haven't always had the tools we take for granted now.

Physicians used to listen to their patients' hearts by pressing their ear against the chest. But they didn't always feel comfortable doing that with female patients.

So in 1816, Rene Theophile-Hyacinthe Laennec found by using a cylinder on a patients chest he could hear even better. Then in 1850, George Camman substituted rubber for stiffer materials, added two earpieces and it became the forerunner to today's stethoscope.

But no one used stethoscopes to measure blood pressure until 1905 when Russian surgeon Nikolai Korotkoff thought to listen for the sounds of blood flowing through an arm when a blood pressure cuff is inflated. His method proved to be extremely accurate and led to the discovery of hypertension.

You should know what your numbers mean. Blood pressure is recorded as two figures. For example, 140 over 90 which suggests you may have hypertension, normal is 110 over 70.

The top number is the systolic pressure which is the pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts. The bottom number is the diastolic pressure which is the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between each heartbeat.

High blood pressure means the pressure in your arteries is too high and can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke, the first- and third-leading causes of death for Americans.

Don't be in the dark. See your doctor to find out if you have high blood pressure and get the treatment you need.

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"According to recent estimates, nearly one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure, but because there are no symptoms, nearly one-third of these people don't know they have it. In fact, many people have high blood pressure for years without knowing it. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure or kidney failure. This is why high blood pressure is often called the "silent killer." The only way to tell if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked." This is the introduction to the American Heart Association website which has wonderful additional information about high blood pressure, the risks involved and what you can do about it.
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The National Institute for Heart Lung and Blood Institute is a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NHLBI) that provides leadership for a national program in diseases of the heart, blood vessels, lung, and blood; blood resources; and sleep disorders. Since October 1997, the NHLBI has also had administrative responsibility for the NIH Woman's Health Initiative. The Institute plans, conducts, fosters, and supports an integrated and coordinated program of basic research, clinical investigations and trials, observational studies, and demonstration and education projects. Research is related to the causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart, blood vessel, lung, and blood diseases; and sleep disorders.

"Your Guide to Lowering High Blood Pressure" is intended for people who are interested in learning more about preventing and controlling high blood pressure. Based on National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute clinical guidelines and research studies, it provides up-to-date practical information on high blood pressure.
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Additional information is available from the Mayo Clinic here

And from the Methodist Hospital in Houston here

History of blood pressure measurement here

Proc R Soc Med. 1977 November; 70(11): 793-799.
The publication in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine volume 70 issue 11 pages 793-799 written by J. Booth and entitled "A short history of blood pressure measurement." is wonderful and more complete history of blood pressure measurement.
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