Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- Why do I need to monitor my blood pressure at home?
- How often do I need to measure my blood pressure?
- What type of monitor should I use?
- What do my blood pressure readings mean?
- What is considered a normal blood pressure for me?
- What should I do if my readings are abnormal?
- Are there any lifestyle changes I can make to help manage my blood pressure?
- Do I need to take medicine to manage my blood pressure?
- What other things can affect a blood pressure reading?
Stride Bp A New International Expert Organisation Will Help You Chose The Right Home Blood Pressure Monitor For You
High blood pressure or hypertension, is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Left untreated it can cause you to have a heart attack or debilitating stroke, it can also increase your risk of developing dementia, including Alzheimers disease in later life.
Therefore, it is vital that if you suffer from high blood pressure and are thinking of purchasing a BP monitor to measure your blood pressure at home, that you select the right device.
With so many different devices available it can be confusing to know which is the best home BP monitor for you. The good news is that an international non-profit organization STRIDE-BPhas been recently established with the mission to improve the accuracy of BP measurement and the diagnosis of high blood pressure.
Please remember that your home monitor will need to be re-calibrated every one to two years, please check the manufacturer guidelines for information on this.
High blood pressure or hypertension, is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke
A healthy blood pressure
Two numbers are used to measure the level of your blood pressure. One number records blood pressure when the pressure is at its highest i.e. as the heart muscle squeezes the blood out of your heart this is called systolic pressure.
How to measure your blood pressure at home
How To Measure Blood Pressure
Blood pressure levels change over the course of time. They can also change according to physical or mental conditions, the measurement environment, or other factors. It’s also nearly impossible to get accurate readings unless you follow the correct procedures. So make sure to measure your blood pressure correctly and keep a record of your readings.
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Avoid This Mistake When You Take Blood Pressure At The Wrist
Now that you know what wrist to use when taking your blood pressure, I want you to avoid the biggest mistake people make. Also, why are you using a wrist monitor? If its not for the reasons I talk about in this blog post, Are Wrist Blood Pressure Monitors Accurate? You may want to avoid using the wrist monitor in the future. I also explain why in the same blog post.
If you do require a wrist cuff monitor, you may want to check out the one I recommend here in my blog post review, Wrist Monitors.
The mistake many people make is having the cuff in the wrong position when measuring. It should be at heart level and your arm position is also important when setting up your measurement.
- Rest the elbow on a comfortable surface.
- Raise your wrist to heart level.
- Keep your wrist straight and dont bend it forward or backward.
- The tension in your wrist and hand should remain relaxed enough to keep it straight and not tensed.
- If you choose not to use a flat surface for the elbow, ensure your arm is supported another way.
There are more wrist cuff tips which I explain in complete detail in my next blog post, How To Use a Wrist Blood Pressure Cuff.
How To Use An Automated Blood Pressure Machine
The easiest way to take your own blood pressure is to purchase an automated cuff. Automatic blood pressure machines are the easiest to use, and theyre helpful if you have any hearing impairments.
These types of blood pressure cuffs have a digital monitor that will display your blood pressure reading on a screen. You can purchase these online, at most grocery stores, or at a health food store.
The American Heart Association recommends an automatic, upper arm blood pressure monitor for at-home use. To use your digital blood pressure monitor, follow the instructions that come with it. You can also take the monitor to your doctors office, or even your local pharmacy, for a demonstration.
You should also purchase a small notebook to start a blood pressure log. This can be helpful for your doctor. You can a free blood pressure log from the AHA.
Machines can give you a different reading than a manual blood pressure reading. Bring your cuff to your next doctors appointment so you can compare the reading from your cuff to the reading your doctor takes. This can help you calibrate your machine and identify levels you should look for on your own device.
Its also important to purchase a high-quality machine and monitor for errors. Even if you check your blood pressure at home, your doctor will still want to manually check it during appointments.
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What Else Do I Need To Know
- Do not take a BP reading in an arm that is injured or has an IV or shunt.
- Take your BP medicines as directed. Do not stop taking your medicines if your BP is at your goal. A BP at your goal means your medicine is working correctly.
- Bring the BP machine to your follow-up visit. Your healthcare provider can check that you are using it correctly.
Dress Properly And Expose Your Wrist
The wrist cuff should wrap around your skin and not over any clothes. This will allow the monitor to receive the best signal from your blood vessels as possible. Also, consider wearing a short sleeve shirt or a sleeve that can easily be moved up your forearm and out of the way.
A looser more comfortable sleeve would be best, so it doesnt have to be tight or uncomfortable after its moved up your arm.
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Misdiagnosis Of High Or Low Blood Pressure
First Ill explain how taking your pressure only on one wrist can miss a diagnosis of high blood pressure. Lets say you only check the left wrist and your readings are always 119/79. Unknown to you, the pressure in your right wrist is 131/83 which indicates your blood pressure is high 4.
Now in the same scenario lets say the pressure in your right wrist is 107/69. Since youre only checking the left wrist you wouldnt know the pressure in the other wrist is lower. While 107/69 is not considered low pressure, it wouldnt warn you of a potential pattern towards low blood pressure.
Failure to measure and record your measurements in both arms may help prevent a diagnosis of low or high blood pressure. At your next physician visit, the doctor would only be given part of your actual blood pressure patterns and recordings and not the complete picture.
Heres an interesting story. A 69 year-old woman was admitted into the hospital for surgery. Different nurses measured her pressure at different times and each nurse used a different arm. Her second reading was so much lower, they assumed her blood pressure dropped and thought her body was reacting to an infection. Little did they know at the time, her pressure never lowered and remained consistent. The pressure was lower in one arm and higher in the other.
Youve Placed The Cuff Incorrectly
The standard for blood pressure cuff placement is the upper arm using a cuff on bare skin with a stethoscope placed at the elbow fold over the brachial artery.
The patient should be sitting, with the arm supported at mid heart level, legs uncrossed, and not talking. Measurements can be made at other locations such as the wrist, fingers, feet, and calves but will produce varied readings depending on distance from the heart.
The mean pressure, interestingly, varies little between the aorta and peripheral arteries, while the systolic pressure increases and the diastolic decreases in the more distal vessels.
Crossing the legs increases systolic blood pressure by 2 to 8 mm Hg. About 20 percent of the population has differences of more than 10 mmHg pressure between the right and left arms. In cases where significant differences are observed, treatment decisions should be based on the higher of the two pressures.
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Monitoring Blood Pressure5 Key Points
- POINT1Make sure you are comfortable and relaxed
Your physical or mental conditions immediately before measuring your blood pressure affect your readings. So if you are frustrated or nervous,you won’t be able to take an accurate reading. Before measuring your blood pressure, rest in a chair for 1 or 2 minutes. It’s recommended that you take 5 or 6 deep breaths before you start the measurement.
- POINT2Empty your bladder and bowels
Measure your blood pressure several minutes after you have emptied your bladder and bowels. Do not measure your blood pressure when you have an urge to urinate or defecate.
- POINT3Sit on a chair with your legs flat on the floor and secure the cuff to your arm/wrist
Maintaining a correct sitting posture and correct application of the cuff are the keys for getting accurate blood pressure readings. Sit up straight with your back against the chair and keep relaxed, with your legs uncrossed. To make the height of your arm or wrist aligned with the heart level , adjust the height of the desk with a book or cushion if the desk is too low. The cuff should be wrapped snuggly and securely.
- POINT4Measure your blood pressure at about the same time each day
Checking blood pressure readings regularly over a long period makes your monitored data more effective in the detection and prevention of hypertension. Choose the time period when you are in the most stable condition and take a blood pressure reading at about the same time each day.
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Youre Using The Wrong
The most common error when using indirect blood pressure measuring equipment is using an incorrectly sized cuff. A BP cuff that is too large will give falsely low readings, while an overly small cuff will provide readings that are falsely high.
The American Heart Association publishes guidelines for blood pressure measurement . recommending that the bladder length and width should be 80 percent and 40 percent respectively, of arm circumference. Most practitioners find measuring bladder and arm circumference to be overly time consuming, so they dont do it.
The most practical way to quickly and properly size a BP cuff is to pick a cuff that covers two-thirds of the distance between your patients elbow and shoulder. Carrying at least three cuff sizes will fit the majority of the adult population. Multiple smaller sizes are needed if you frequently treat pediatric patients.
Korotkoff sounds are the noises heard through a stethoscope during cuff deflation. They occur in 5 phases:
- I first detectable sounds, corresponding to appearance of a palpable pulse
- II sounds become softer, longer and may occasionally transiently disappear
- III change in sounds to a thumping quality
- IV pitch intensity changes and sounds become muffled
- V sounds disappear
How To Use A Blood Pressure Cuff At Home
You could always inflate a manual sphygmomanometer with a hand pump and count Korotkoff sounds in your head, but why would you when wireless, digital blood pressure monitors are so readily available these days? They don’t have to be expensive, either: Some models sell for less than $30 a unit.
Plus, you’re way more likely to get an accurate blood pressure reading if you use a digital cuff — there’s less room for error. To take your blood pressure at home with a digital blood pressure monitor, all you have to do is:
1. Slide the blood pressure cuff onto your upper arm and secure it so that it sits snugly about one inch above the crease of your elbow.
2. If you have an automatic model, simply push the button that inflates the cuff. If you have a manual model, use the hand pump to inflate the cuff.
3. After the cuff fully inflates, air will automatically start flowing back out.
4. Look at the screen to get your blood pressure reading.
5. If you need to repeat the measurement, wait a few minutes before attempting a new reading.
At-home, digital blood pressure monitors can be worn on the wrist or upper arm, depending on what model you choose.
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What Is Blood Pressure And How Is It Measured
The heart supplies the organs and tissues of the body with blood. With every beat, it pumps blood into the large blood vessels of the circulatory system. As the blood moves around the body, it puts pressure on the walls of the vessels. Blood pressure readings are made up of two values:
- Systolic blood pressure is the pressure when the heart beats while the heart muscle is contracting and pumping oxygen-rich blood into the blood vessels.
- Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure on the blood vessels when the heart muscle relaxes. The diastolic pressure is always lower than the systolic pressure.
Blood pressure is measured in units of millimeters of mercury . The readings are always given in pairs, with the upper value first, followed by the lower value.
So someone who has a reading of 132/88 mmHg has a
- systolic blood pressure of 132 mmHg, and a
- diastolic blood pressure of 88 mmHg.
Tips For Getting An Accurate Blood Pressure Reading
To accurately monitor your blood pressure over time, you shouldn’t just plop down in a chair whenever to do a reading. Instead, you should implement some simple practices that help ensure accuracy.
1. Take your blood pressure at the same time of day for every new recording.
2. Avoid caffeine and alcohol at least 30 minutes prior to your reading.
3. Avoid exercise within 30 minutes of taking your blood pressure.
4. Sit up straight and be still throughout the measurement.
5. Take multiple measurements and record all of the results with the date and time.
6. Don’t wear the blood pressure cuff over clothes.
Your blood pressure should be easy to read on a digital monitor, like this one.
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How To Take Your Blood Pressure At Home
Tips for using a blood pressure cuff or wireless blood pressure monitor for accurate readings.
Taking your blood pressure at home is easy with a digital blood pressure monitor.
Every time your heart beats, it pumps blood through your circulatory system, putting pressure on your blood vessels — the veins, arteries and capillaries. This is known as your blood pressure and without it, your bones, muscles, organs and other tissues wouldn’t get the oxygen and nutrients they need. Your body’s various systems, like the immune and digestive systems, also wouldn’t function without blood pressure.
But there can always be too much of a good thing, right? High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, occurs when the force against your blood vessel walls becomes too high, which can kick your heart into overdrive and lead to serious health problems like heart attack and stroke.
What If I Dont Have Equipment
You dont need a blood pressure cuff to take your resting heart rate, which is another measurement that helps indicate heart health. Digital monitors usually display both blood pressure and heart rate, but you can determine the former on your own by checking your pulse by hand. Your pulse is how many times your heart pumps per minute.
First, locate the artery below the thumb on the inside of your wrist and place two fingers there. Count how many times you feel your heartbeat over a 15-second period, and then multiply your count by four to get your resting heart rate.
When youre checking pulse by hand, youre looking for more than just a number. Youre also checking for a regular rhythm, which indicates a strong pulse.
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Keep Your Wrist Cuff At Heart Level
Not keeping your wrist cuff at heart level is probably the biggest mistake people make. If the cuff is below heart level, its easy to get a false reading too high. If your wrist cuff is above heart level, your readings can be false to the low side.
The best way to make sure your cuff is at heart level is the positioning of your arm. If you dont have a table to rest your elbow on, start with your upper arm hanging straight down close to your side.
Then bend your elbow, raising your forearm up and across your chest until your wrist cuff is level with your heart. Keep your upper arm down and close to your side as shown in the image below.
Some wrist monitors have a heart level sensor. The wrist monitor I highly recommend has a built in heart level guidance feature. You can check it out on Amazon by . I also wrote a whole blog post on it and why I think its the best wrist monitor which you can read right here.