Learn about the benefits of monitoring your blood pressure at home, and how to measure accurately.
“When you measure your blood pressure, it can provide insight into your heart health and alert you that there might be undetected problems as a result of high blood pressure,” says Dr. Joseph Anistranski, a primary care physician at Geisinger 65 Forward in Wilkes-Barre. Because routine blood pressure monitoring can help you and your doctor detect changes and help you keep your blood pressure at a healthy level, it’s an important part of your health to keep track of. Here’s how to do it at home.
How to measure your blood pressure
To measure your blood pressure, you’ll first need to purchase an at-home blood pressure monitor. “These are available relatively inexpensively at most pharmacies. You should purchase a monitor that fits on the arm, not the wrist,” says Dr. Anistranski. “And you should bring your monitor to your next doctor’s appointment to make sure it’s the right one for you.” Your doctor can also teach you how to use it properly.
Once you have your blood pressure monitor at home, there are some simple guidelines to follow before measuring your blood pressure. These include:
- Avoid tobacco, caffeine and exercise 30 minutes beforehand.
- Sit relaxed for at least 5 minutes, with your feet resting on the floor.
- Secure the monitoring cuff tightly, but not uncomfortably, on bare skin.
- Measure your blood pressure 2 or 3 times and use the average number for your records.
“You should also always measure your blood pressure on your upper arm, above the elbow,” says Dr. Anistranski.
Your blood pressure measurements will include two numbers:
- Systolic (top number) = pressure in blood vessels when the heart beats
- Diastolic (bottom number) = pressure in blood vessels when heart relaxes between beats
For people over age 60, the systolic number should be less than 150 and the diastolic number should be less than 90.
Tips for controlling high blood pressure
High blood pressure often has no signs or symptoms, but you can take steps to control it:
- Take your medicine as directed.
- Eat lots of fresh fruits and low-fat dairy products
- Limit saturated and total fat.
- Cut down on salt and sodium.
- Quit tobacco.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine.
- Lose weight, if you need to.
- Get regular exercise.
- Control stress.
Why you should track your blood pressure at home
It’s natural for your blood pressure to change over time. However, if you develop high blood pressure (also called hypertension) that’s left untreated, your risk of developing certain health issues can increase.
High blood pressure can lead to health issues including:
“If your blood pressure is suddenly extremely high, or has been consistently higher for a period of time, call your doctor,” says Dr. Anistranski. “The longer your blood pressure remains high, the higher your risk for a heart attack or stroke.”
By measuring your blood pressure at home daily, you can become your doctor’s partner in staying on top of health issues so you can live a long and healthy life.
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