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Take It To The Heart

Making sense out of Pulse, Blood Pressure, etc.

What's the difference between measuring your pulse and measuring your blood pressure? Well, they both have to do with the pumping action of the heart. The pulse indicates the rate of the heartbeat, and the pressure indicates the force of the blood coursing through the arteries. 

When the heart contracts (during systole) it spurts blood into the aorta, the major artery leaving the heart. The aorta becomes distended to receive this increased blood volume. Then the heart relaxes (during diastole); the blood volume in the aorta decreases and its walls contract. This propels the blood out of the aorta and through the other smaller blood vessels throughout the body (the arteries, capillaries and veins). It takes about a quarter of a second for a wave of blood to go from the aorta to the arteries in the soles of the feet. The pressure of the blood diminishes as it runs through the smaller blood vessels, and is at its lowest in the veins. 

When the doctor takes your pulse rate, what is usually being counted is the pulsations per minute in the radial artery in your wrist. The normal rate for adults is 70 to 90 pulsations per minute. For children the normal rate is 90 to 120. The doctor observes the force of the pulse as well as the rate and rhythm. 
When the doctor takes your blood pressure, an instrument known as sphygmomanometer is attached to your arm and the pressure in the brachial artery is measured. Normal pressure for young people is 120 over 80 (or 120 mm. for systolic pressure and 80 mm. for diastolic pres- sure). As you grow older, there is a constriction or hardening of the arteries and the blood has to work harder to get through. Blood pressure at age 50 normally increases to about 140 to 150 over 90. Physical activity, nervous or emotional strain may cause increases in blood pressure. 

Source: The Great Big Book of Astounding Facts By Bruce D. Witherspoon

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