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Taking a blood pressure

Area of Science: Biological Sciences
Meant for at least Grade 7-9 (age 11-13).
This experiment is inedible.
An adult should be present.

Overview:
Take a blood pressure.. correlate the blood pressure to the heart's pumping of blood.

Equipment:
1. Sphygmomanometer (blood pressure cuff).. avail from the school nurse?? A "child's cuff" should be used to allow more accurate readings for children.
2. Stethoscope.

It would be helpful if someone who knows how to take a blood pressure is present to supervise, as the technique requires some practice. Also you want to avoid keeping the cuff inflated on someone's arm for too long.

Safety:
Don't put the cuff around your friend's neck.. :).

How to do the experiment:

1. Deflate the bladder of the cuff and place it around the upper arm so it fits snugly, but not too tightly. If you're right handed, you should hold the bulb/pump in your left hand to inflate the cuff. Hold it in the palm so your fingers can easily reach the valve at the top to open/close the outlet to the air bladder wrapped around the person's arm.

2. Put the head of the stethoscope just under the edge of the cuff, a little above the crease of the person's elbow. Hold it there firmly with the thumb, or with a few fingers of your right hand. Put the ear pieces of the stethoscope in your ears.

3. Inflate the cuff with brisk squeezes of the bulb. Watch the pressure gage as you do it. For most kids, you shouldn't need to go over 150 (the markings indicate "pressure" in mm Hg or mercury).

4. At 150, slightly open the valve on the air pump (held in your left hand, as above). This part takes practice.. It's important that you don't let the air out too suddenly. Likewise, your friend will be quite irritated with you if you let it out too slowly.

5. Now, pay attention *very carefully* to what you hear through the stethoscope as the needle on the pressure gage falls. You will be listening for a slight "blrrpp" or a something that sounds like "prrpshh." The first time you hear this sound, note what the reading was on the pressure gage. This value represents the systolic blood pressure (described below).

6. The sounds should continue and become louder in intensity. Note the pressure reading when you hear the sound for the last time. This value represents the diastolic blood pressure.

7. Afterwards, open the air valve completely to release any remaining pressure.

In adults, hypertension is defined as regular BP readings > 140/90. However, kids should have BP lower than the normal values for adults.

Here's a quiz to test your knowledge: (the answers are at the bottom)

  1. What is the life span of red blood cells?________
  2. The main function of ________________ is to defend the body against infection.
  3. What is the name of the process that generates new red blood cells?____________
  4. _________ play an essential role in the blood clotting process.
  5. How many blood cells in the human body die each second?_____________
  6. What blood cells carry oxygen to tissues through out the body?__________

Answers:

  1. 80 to 120 days
  2. White Blood Cells
  3. Erythropoiesis
  4. Platelets
  5. 2 Million
  6. Red Blood Cells
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