3 Tips for Explaining Blood Pressure Numbers to Patients

Asking patients to measure their own blood pressure can provide valuable data for a hypertension diagnosis or help them control confirmed hypertension. Yet, interpreting blood pressure numbers can be confusing and overwhelming for many patients. Communicate effectively to empower patients with essential knowledge of their health. Use these three tips for explaining blood pressure numbers to patients.

1. Connect Terminology to the Heart's Movement

Explaining terminology will help patients understand their readings. When explaining the two blood pressure readings, systolic and diastolic, relate these numbers to the pumping and relaxing phases of the heart.

Systolic pressure, the top number, represents arterial pressure when the heart contracts. Diastolic pressure, the bottom number, represents the pressure when the heart rests between beats. Patients can understand this concept by relating these numbers to the heart's natural rhythm.

2. Explain Normal, Elevated, and High Blood Pressure Readings

Another tip for explaining blood pressure numbers to patients is to provide context for normal, elevated, or high blood pressure. According to the American Heart Association's guidelines, normal blood pressure has a systolic value of less than 120 mmHg and a diastolic value of less than 80 mmHg.

Explain the potential risks of elevated and high blood pressure, such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney problems. Emphasizing the importance of maintaining healthy blood pressure levels can motivate patients to take prevention and management measures.

3. Use Visual Aids and Demonstrations

Explaining blood pressure with visual aids and demonstrations can enhance patients' information retention. Use charts, diagrams, or illustrations to show the different blood pressure ranges and their implications.

The American Heart Association blood pressure tables present the information clearly. You can also let patients listen to their own heartbeat with a stethoscope to connect the sounds with systolic and diastolic numbers.

Tip: Give Informational Handouts

To improve self-measured blood pressure monitoring, give patients a succinct handout to take home. The guide can include information such as device and cuff selection, positioning, timing, and an explanation of the numbers. The informational handout will help patients feel more confident after leaving your office.

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