How to Accurately Monitor Your Blood Pressure at Home
The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology recently issued new guidelines for reading blood pressure. This is a much-needed move to increase awareness of heart disease, which causes 1 in 7 deaths in the U.S., or one every 90 seconds. It will identify more people at risk thus providing more education at the earliest stages of risk and making a more significant impact on reducing the number of people who go on to develop heart, stroke, or other cardiovascular diseases.
New guidelines now put blood pressure readings in five different categories:
- Normal: <120 / <80 mmHg
- Elevated: 120-129 / <80 mmHg
- Stage 1: 130-139 / 80-89 mmHg
- Stage 2: >140 / >90 mmHg
- Hypertensive crisis: >180 / >120 mmHg
Checking Your Blood Pressure
Be aware that many things can make your blood pressure elevated such as getting your blood pressure checked in a clinical setting (being nervous – “white coat syndrome”), medications you may be taking, stress, alcohol, coffee, or lack of sleep.
Checking Your Blood Pressure At Home
Selecting a Blood Pressure Monitor
We recommend the Omron 10 series BP 7869. It’s easy to use and will let you know if you are in a risk category, instead of having to memorize the reference ranges, and it will also detect an irregular heartbeat.
Obtaining an Accurate Blood Pressure Reading At Home
If you are monitoring your blood pressure at home, a good time to do so is about an hour after waking up in the morning, before taking medications, exercising or eating. When taking your blood pressure follow these steps:
* Use the bathroom first. A full bladder can raise your systolic reading by as much as 15 mmHg.
- Sit in a chair, have both feet flat on the floor, and elevate the arm you are using. We recommend a chair with armrests. Rest calmly in the chair for about 10 minutes prior to measurement.
- Place the properly fitted cuff around your bare upper arm, one inch above the bend of your elbow. There should be an arrow on the cuff indicating that it needs to be placed on your artery. Placing the cuff over clothing can increase systolic by as much as 50 mmHg.
- Relax and don’t talk. Talking can raise your systolic pressure by 15 mmHg.
If your readings are high three or more consecutive times at home or in your doctor’s office:
- Review any medications you are taking to see if one of the side effects is high blood pressure and if it is (don’t stop taking medication) but make an appointment with the prescribing doctor to discuss.
- Review all the risk factors and see if there are any you can eliminate. Lifestyle changes are the first line therapy and incorporating acupuncture, chiropractic, or massage into your lifestyle can help.
If lifestyle improvements aren’t bringing your blood pressure down, then it’s time to find a specialist in functional medicine or a family doctor for help. Let your doctor know during appointments what your numbers are and what you are doing to improve them. Try making a list and bringing it on your next visit.
Get A Heart Health Checkup
Get Tested – ask your healthcare provider about the following important heart health indicator tests.
Knowing where you are at can help you determine if a plan of action is required and what might need to be included in it.
Once you know where you are at, you and your doctor will make sure to incorporate healthy steps to a healthy heart .
If you are concerned about your heart health or haven’t had your annual check-up, don’t delay – schedule an appointment with a Functional Medicine expert or your family doctor to get yourself tested! Detecting small problems before they become a major crisis is one of the best and easiest ways to manage and improve your health on a daily basis.