One of the highest risk factors for heart attack and stroke is high blood pressure. Nowadays, since the COVID-19 pandemic, more people have started monitoring their blood pressure at home.
In fact, the American Heart Association AHA, and other health organizations, recommend that people with high blood pressure should regularly check and monitor their blood pressure at home. This is also one way of knowing whether your treatment is working or not.
How do I choose the best blood pressure monitor?
The readings you get when checking your blood pressure at home are very important in managing your health; that is why choosing the most reliable blood pressure monitor is crucial. To monitor your blood pressure at home, you can use either an aneroid or digital monitor.
This type of blood pressure monitor is often less expensive than digital ones. Its cuff has a fixed stethoscope. Despite its feature that makes it easy for you to put the cuff on your arm with only one hand, you may want to consider. some drawbacks
This device can be damaged easily and may give results that are less accurate. Using this device may also be hard without its metal ring for tightening the cuff because the metal ring is what makes putting the cuff on much easier. Another thing to consider is the rubber bulb used to inflate the cuff. It may be hard to squeeze, especially with feeble hands.
Also, this device uses a stethoscope for listening to the heartbeat, so it may not be the best choice for hearing-impaired people.
This blood pressure monitor also uses a cuff that wraps around your arm. Inflating the cuff may be done by squeezing the ball or by pushing a button--depending on which type of digital monitor you are using. Of course, the readings will not be as accurate if your body is moving when using the device.
Nevertheless, digital monitors are the recommended type of blood pressure monitors for home use and are actually the best choice for most individuals.
Why should you measure and monitor your blood pressure at home?
High blood pressure doesn’t usually have early warning signs or symptoms. Most people don’t even know they have it until a heart attack or stroke has occurred. The only way of knowing whether or not you have high blood pressure is by measuring your blood pressure.
Measuring and monitoring your blood pressure at home is crucial to managing your health if you have high blood pressure. This can help your health care provider diagnose any health problems early on.
Monitoring your blood pressure at home can help you get better control over your health; you will feel more motivated to improve your diet, be more physically active and get proper medication. It can also help you save money from medical visits.
Whitecoat vs masked hypertension
In some instances, being in a doctor's clinic can cause people to have elevated blood pressure on their readings. This is called white coat hypertension. On the contrary, there are also people whose blood pressure is fine at the doctor's clinic and have spikes in their blood pressure elsewhere; this is called masked hypertension.
When checking your blood pressure at the doctor's clinic, the reading only shows your blood pressure at that moment, while home monitoring lets you check your blood pressure often. This home practice will help you determine if you really have high blood pressure.
That is why it is important to know how to accurately check and monitor your blood pressure at home.
What affects a BP reading?
Before you start measuring your blood pressure, it is important to know the factors affecting a blood pressure reading.
There are many things that can affect your blood pressure reading, and this includes nervousness, food and drink, physical activity before your reading, and how you are sitting while having your blood pressure measured.
Smoking, drinking alcohol or caffeinated beverages, and exercising before getting your blood pressure measurement can lead to a higher blood pressure reading. Sitting with your legs crossed and letting your arm hang limply at your side can also cause your reading to spike, rather than resting your arm on a chest-level table.
Therefore, it is critical to get an accurate blood pressure reading to avoid getting medical treatments that you don't actually need.
So, here’s how you accurately measure your blood pressure:
The proper use of a blood pressure monitor requires practice. Make sure you take your device to your health care provider the first time you use it to compare your device’s readings and your health care provider’s readings on their device. This ensures your device is working properly and accurately.
Once you know your device is working fine and accurately, you can start monitoring your blood pressure at home.
Step #1: Measure your blood pressure at least twice a day.
You can measure your blood pressure in the morning about an hour after waking up but before taking your breakfast and medications, then measure it again in the evening. If you exercise after waking up, measure your blood pressure before exercising.
Take 2-3 readings every time you measure to ensure your results are the same. This helps you get a better understanding of your "actual" blood pressure. Some health care providers recommend measuring your blood pressure at the same time every day, using the same arm.
Step #2: Empty your bladder.
It is important to note that a full bladder can cause a slight increase in blood pressure.
Step #3: Sit properly and be still.
Your sitting position can have a huge impact on the measurements of your blood pressure. A proper sitting position must be observed. Five minutes before getting your blood pressure measured, sit on a chair—preferably a dining chair—with your back straight and supported.
Rest your feet flat on the floor; your legs should not be crossed. Stay calm and avoid negative thoughts. Also, don’t talk while your blood pressure is being measured.
Step #4: Arm should be positioned properly.
Remember to use the same arm when you measure your blood pressure. To do this, rest your arm on a table. Your upper arm should be raised to the level of your heart.
If your upper arm is above heart level, then the blood pressure readings will be too low, which results in underestimation of your diastolic and systolic blood pressure. When your upper arm is placed below heart level, this results in an overestimation. If your table is not high enough to reach heart level, you can use a pillow under your arm.
Step #5: Place the cuff properly.
The right fit of the cuff should feel snug but not too tight and crushing. The cuff should be placed on your bare skin and not over your clothing. A rolled-up sleeve should be fine as long as it's not tight around your arm because it can greatly affect the reading.
Step #6: Repeat the reading.
After the first reading, wait at least 1 minute before taking a second blood pressure reading. It is important to jot down notes of every reading so you can keep records of the results, and you can take them with you to your next doctor’s appointment.
When to See a Doctor
Only a health care provider can diagnose you with many health conditions, including high blood pressure. You should contact your health care provider if you have had high readings for the past several days. Make sure to bring your notes and records of your blood pressure readings with you.
The simplest way to measure your blood pressure at home is to use an automated arm cuff blood pressure monitor, which the AHA also recommends for monitoring blood pressure at home. Taking notes during your blood pressure reading and showing them to your health care provider can help them identify and diagnose any health issues early on.