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What is blood pressure monitoring?

Blood Pressure Monitoring

Blood pressure monitoring means taking your blood pressure on a regular or continuous basis. Blood pressure monitoring helps assess your overall health and your condition when you are sick or injured. Blood pressure monitoring can occur at a doctor’s appointment, at home on a regular basis, and in the hospital continuously if you are seriously ill or injured.    

Blood pressure is the force exerted on the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood through your body. Your blood pressure consists of two numbers followed by the units of pressure, such as 120/80 mmHg (millimeters of mercury): 

  • The top number is the systolic pressure—the highest pressure in your arteries as the heart is pumping blood. 
  • The bottom number is the diastolic pressure—the lowest pressure in your arteries when the heart is at rest between beats. 

A general guideline for normal blood pressure in adults is less than 120/80 mmHg. Regular blood pressure monitoring is important because a single blood pressure reading does not provide enough information to evaluate your health status. 

Noninvasive blood pressure monitoring is a safe, routine procedure. It is only one method of monitoring your general health and condition. Ask your doctor about all the methods of monitoring and evaluating your health status.  

Types of blood pressure monitoring

The types of blood pressure monitoring include:

  • Noninvasive blood pressure monitoring, which most often involves applying a blood pressure cuff to the upper arm. Some devices take readings in a finger, wrist or thigh. This type of monitoring usually occurs at specific points in time, such as weekly, daily, or every 15 minutes, depending on your health and condition. Specialized noninvasive devices can provide continuous 24-hour blood pressure monitoring, which offers a broader picture of your health.
  • Invasive intra-arterial pressure (IAP) monitoring, which measures blood pressure continuously through a catheter in an artery. The catheter is usually placed in the wrist. IAP is useful in certain major surgeries, such as open-heart surgery, and in critically ill or injured patients.
Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: Jul 5, 2013

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Medical References

A comparison of a continuous non-invasive arterial pressure (CNAP) monitor with and invasive arterial blood pressure monitor in the cardiac surgical ICU. Annals of Cardiac Anesthesia. http://www.annals.in/article.asp?issn=0971-9784;year=2012;volume=15;issue=3;spage=180;epage=184;aulast=Jagadeesh. Accessed April 20, 2013.
High Blood Pressure/Blood Pressure Monitoring at Home. American Academy of Family Physicians. http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/diagnosis-tests/blood-pressure-monitoring-at-home.html. Accessed April 20, 2013.
Home Blood Pressure Monitoring. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/SymptomsDiagnosisMonitoringofHighBloodPressure/Home-Blood-Pressure-Monitoring_UCM_301874_Article.jsp. Accessed April 20, 2013.
Wearable blood pressure sensor offers 24/7 continuous monitoring. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2009/blood-pressure-tt0408.html. Accessed April 20, 2013.

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