Investing in a blood pressure monitor for home use? For many patients with hypertension, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, or other chronic illnesses, monitoring blood pressure at home is often recommended by the doctor (pregnant women as well). Not only does self-monitoring empower patients to take control of their health, but it provides a window into day to day health for healthcare providers to take action and monitor treatment effectiveness.
Don’t miss these top tips for monitoring your blood pressure at home:
Check Your Device: Want to make sure the digital device you purchase is giving you an accurate reading? Check it against professional equipment! In a pharmacy, you can ask your pharmacist to watch you do a reading to check your technique, and then measure the reading of your portable device with the blood pressure monitor at the pharmacy. Do the same test at your doctor’s office or with your home health nurse and their own device.
Follow the Directions: Blood pressure monitors come with directions for a reason. Sitting in a supportive chair with your back straight, place your feet flat on the ground and be as still as possible. Depending on whether you have an upper arm or wrist cuff, your directions for reading may vary from placing your arm to rest on a table at elbow height to holding your hand up to your chest by your heart. Read the directions carefully to get the most accurate reading, and when in doubt, ask your pharmacist or doctor. Take two or three readings at a time, about one-minute apart, according to the American Heart Association to ensure the most reliable results.
Avoid Stimulants: Don’t drink caffeine (like coffee and tea), don’t smoke, and don’t exercise up to 30 minutes prior to taking your blood pressure reading. Stimulants and nicotine will constrict blood vessels and can result in misleading blood pressure readings, and exercise of course will get your heart rate up and make for an inaccurate reading that doesn’t reflect a ‘resting’ blood pressure.
Take Readings at the Same Time Every Day: A normal blood pressure range could be affected by time of day, activity levels, food and beverage consumption, stress levels, and more. Taking your blood pressure reading at the same time of day plays a critical role in giving you accurate and actionable readings, especially if you are being treated for blood pressure-related illnesses. Aim for the same time every morning, every evening, or as your medical doctor recommends.
Keep Your Own Daily Log: While most digital blood pressure monitors do a good job these days of storing your bp readings into memory, a simple reset or dead battery could potentially wipe out the entire log. Consider keeping your own written log in a small notepad or on your smartphone. You’ll have a record to discuss with your doctor, and knowing your baseline blood pressure will help you recognize when readings seem worthy of a trip to the doctor.
Understand the Numbers: Knowing and comprehending what systolic and diastolic pressure readings mean, what normal/healthy numbers are, and what levels indicate you are in prehypertension or hypertension are going to give you the best chance at making the most of self-monitoring. Having a conversation with your doctor, especially if you have chronic conditions like diabetes, will allow you to set up goals as far as blood pressure is concerned as part of your treatment plan.
The information you receive from routine blood pressure readings at home could be key to preventing your risk of heart disease or heart-related incidents. Don’t forget to take your blood pressure logs and readings to your doctor’s appointments, like you would your list of medicines, especially if you are concerned about recent readings or changes in your normal pressure levels.