Do you know what your blood pressure is right now? Well, if you’re one of the millions of people who have their blood pressure checked only at their annual or semi-annual medical check-ups, there’s a good chance you don’t.
For years, I have checked my own blood pressure regularly at home, just because I’ve been interested in knowing what it is. I don’t have hypertension, the technical word for high blood pressure, and I don’t take medication for it. I’m just curious.
Recently, I became aware that there are a growing number of studies showing that it’s actually a smart thing to do. One study, published in July last year in The Journal of the American Medical Association, found that 72% of those doing home monitoring had their blood pressure under control compared with 57% who received usual care from their primary doctors.
Monitoring your blood pressure at home is an easy way to help reduce hypertension. It’s inexpensive and scientifically proven.
High blood pressure means that the blood going through your blood vessels is pushing against the walls of the vessels with a force that’s too high. This injures the vessel walls and forces the heart to pump harder, which increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, the leading causes of death in the United States.
33 percent of adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure and half of the 33% don’t have it under control.
Home monitoring keeps you on top of your condition much better than infrequent doctor visits. When you know your pressure is elevated, you’ll be more likely to ask your doctor about how to bring it down.
Also, home monitoring will more likely encourage you to do the other things needed to control blood pressure, such as exercise and reduced salt intake.
There are good home blood pressure monitors available at pharmacies or online merchants. Maybe your insurance company will even cover the cost, which can range anywhere between $50 – $100.
My device is an Omron digital monitor that’s very accurate. I know, because I take it with me when I have my check-up and my family doctor checks it against his measurement.
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury and expressed as two numbers, systolic pressure (the top number) measures pressure when the heart is beating or contracting, and diastolic pressure (the lower number) measures pressure in between heart beats when the heart is relaxed.
The following guidelines are from the Centers for Disease Control: [adrotate group=”4″]
Normal: less than 120/80 mm
Prehypertension: 120-130/80-89 mm
Hypertension: 140/90 mm and higher
How often should you check? At first I was doing it a couple times a day out of curiosity , but it was consistent, so now I do about once a week. But the need varies from person to person. It’s best to check with your doctor.
My GYN told me the best time to take blood pressure is early in the morning as soon as you get out of bed, and before you take any medication. In any case, don’t get too compulsive with frequent measurements because you can go overboard and become smothered in numbers, which could cause unnecessary anxiety.
- Make sure your monitor is calibrated at your doctor’s office. I find they’re happy to do it.
- Keep a record of results including date and time of day.
- Record all the results. Don’t exclude the high readings even if they’re unusual.
- Bring your records with you to your doctor for her/his review.
Also, remember that home monitoring is not a substitute for regular medical check-ups.