Fundamentals of blood pressure measurement

A healthy blood pressure is vital to life and both low and high blood pressure can be life-threatening. This article looks at how the body regulates blood pressure, what a healthy blood pressure is, how it should be measured and what happens when blood pressure rises or falls. Paramedics may see patients who have a previous diagnosis of hypertension or who have suffered the devastating consequences of undiagnosed and uncontrolled hypertension such as myocardial infarction and stroke (Law et al, 2003). Hypotension may be a presenting sign in conditions such as haemorrhage, both obvious as in the case of trauma and concealed as in the case of a slow gastro-intestinal bleed (Dutton et al, 2002) and may also be a sign of chronic disease such as neurological or endocrine disease (NHS Direct Wales, 2013). It is therefore important to understand how to recognise possible causes of blood pressure changes, understand how these fluctuations occur and how to measure blood pressure accurately in order to accurately assess the patient's condition.

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