According to the CDC, almost 75 million Americans have high blood pressure -- that’s one in every three adults. And, only 54% of people with high blood pressure have their condition under control.
High blood pressure, sometimes called “the silent killer” is a major health problem but often times, people don’t know something is even wrong. This is because high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) doesn’t have any visible signs or symptoms of illness.
If high blood pressure isn’t controlled with medicine or changes in lifestyle, it can lead to more serious events like stroke, aneurysm, heart or kidney failure. If you’re living with high blood pressure, you may be disappointed or concerned when your numbers aren’t under control, especially if you’re taking blood pressure medication on a regular basis. In today’s blog, we’ll discuss how you can manage high blood pressure on a daily basis.
(Have a heart appointment soon? Bring this free worksheet with you.)
Where Should My Blood Pressure Be?
Your blood pressure is measured using two numbers in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). The first number, the systolic blood pressure, represents the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats. The second, the diastolic blood pressure, represents the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart rests between beats.
The American Heart Association defines a normal blood pressure reading of less than 120/80 mmHg, while a blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg or more is considered too high. People with levels from 120/80 mmHg to 139/89 mmHg have a condition called pre-hypertension. This means they’re at high risk for high blood pressure.
Systolic: ≤ 120 mmHg
Diastolic: ≤ 80 mmHg
Systolic: 120 - 139 mmHg
Diastolic: 80 - 89 mmHg
Systolic: ≥ 140 mmHg
Diastolic: ≥ 90 mmHg
High blood pressure can affect people at any age, but it occurs more often in those 55 and older. If you have high blood pressure, your healthcare provider may prescribe medication to help manage it as well as suggest changes in lifestyle. This is where self-monitoring comes into play.
How to Monitor Your Blood Pressure at Home
The American Heart Association recommends anyone with hypertension to monitor their blood pressure at home. Doing so will help you track your blood pressure on a regular basis to ensure your medication is working or to alert you to any health complications. It can also assist your doctor in making decisions about your treatment such as adjustments in dosages or changing medications.
A blood pressure monitor doesn’t require a prescription and can be purchased at most pharmacies or medical supply stores like Walgreens and CVS. An automatic or electronic device is most commonly recommended. But, discuss choices with your doctor so you’re choosing a monitor that’s best suited for your situation.
Self-monitoring might even decrease your number of doctors visits. But keep in mind, not everyone can track blood pressure at home. For example, if you have an irregular heartbeat, some monitors may not provide an accurate reading.
Home Blood Pressure Monitors
Blood pressure monitors generally have the same basic parts: an inflatable cuff and a gauge for reading. The cuff’s inner layer will fill up with air and squeeze your arm. Your heart rate and blood flow are calculated by measuring the changes in the motion of your artery as the blood flows through as the cuff deflates.
Digital monitors fitted on the upper arm are generally more accurate. But, if you can’t find a cuff large enough or find blood pressure measurements painful, ask your doctor about an alternative cuff for your lower arm or wrist and how it should.
Public Blood Pressure Machines
Public blood pressure machines are also helpful for tracking your systolic and diastolic numbers. They’re often found in pharmacies and health stores and can provide helpful information about your blood pressure. Keep in mind, limitations like cuff fit and display may affect the accuracy of your reading. Ask your doctor for advice on using public blood pressure machines and what size cuff you should be looking for.
How to Track Your Blood Pressure More Effectively
Once a year, check the accuracy of your monitor by bringing it with you to the doctor’s office and comparing its reading with those taken by your physician. No matter what type of home blood pressure monitor you choose, it’ll require some practice. To ensure you’re getting the most accurate reading at home, follow these tips:
- Measure it twice per day, with repeat readings.
- Don’t measure it immediately after you wake up.
- Avoid food and caffeine 30 minutes before testing.
- Sit quietly before and during monitoring.
- Place the cuff on your skin, not over clothing.
Blood pressure may vary throughout the day. It might be higher in the morning or lower at home than the doctor’ office. If you notice any unusual or consistent jumps in blood pressure, discuss with your health provider any steps you can take to manage it further. For more information on heart health or to schedule a scan, reach out to our team anytime at (918) 879-6161.
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