Why is Blood Pressure Screening Important?

Blood pressure is often checked by physical therapists upon meeting a patient for the first time. It is one of the vital signs we use to screen patients for potentially unknown health issues. Increased pressure, called hypertension, can be caused by genetic influences, unhealthy lifestyle habits (e.g., high sodium intake, drinking excess alcohol and lack of physical activity), being overweight or obese, and medicines2.

Complications from hypertension can include heart attack or stroke, aneurysm, heart failure, weakened and narrowed blood vessels in your kidneys, metabolic syndrome or trouble with memory or understanding2.

Manual vs Automatic Blood Pressure Monitoring

Blood pressure can be measured using a sphyg­mo­ma­nom­e­ter and cuff which temporarily occludes blood flow. When the air in the cuff is slowly released, the blood will forcefully flow past the cuff when the arterial blood pressure is greater than the pressure in the cuff3.

The forceful flow of blood produces sounds that can be heard with a stethoscope3. This audible method (auscultatory) with a stethoscope is often referred to as the gold standard as compared to machines which detect these sounds automatically (automated oscillometric)3. Many medical professionals use the audible method for increased accuracy. Still, monitoring at home with an automatic unit is beneficial and recommended.

Sources:

  1. “Causes of High Blood Pressure.” National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. National Institutes of Health, n.d. Web. 15 June 2016.
  2. “High Blood Pressure (hypertension).” Mayo Clinic. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2016. <http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/basics/definition/con-20019580>.
  3. DeTurk, William E., and Lawrence P. Cahalin. Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Physical Therapy: An Evidence-based Approach. New York: McGraw-Hill, Medical Pub. Division, 2004. Print.