|Home is where the heart is |
|Monitor your blood pressure at home for better health|
Which monitor is for you?
Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist may be able to recommend the best kind of monitor for your needs. Most home blood pressure monitors fall into one of the following two categories:
- Manual, or aneroid, monitors have a stethoscope and the traditional arm cuff you inflate by squeezing a rubber bulb. Although these devices are tried and true, some people—especially those with vision problems or hearing loss—may find it hard to read the gauge or hear blood pulsing through the stethoscope. Inflating the bulb may be problematic for some patients with limited hand strength.
- Automatic, or digital, monitors have a cuff that can be inflated either electronically or manually. A microphone detects your blood pulsing and shows your blood pressure on a digital screen display. Some models produce a paper printout so you can keep a record of your readings for later comparisons by your doctor. Although easier to use than manual devices, these are pricier.
Whether you’re 6 or 60 years old, a doctor’s visit can start your heart racing. For older adults in particular, the anxiety felt while in the doctor’s office might cause inaccurately high blood pressure results. This cause and effect is called white-coat hypertension. That’s why many adults, with their doctors’ guidance, regularly take and record their blood pressure at home. Testing yourself in a comfortable environment may offer a truer blood pressure reading than the best doctor in town can.
Should I test at home?
Testing blood pressure at home, however, isn’t just a way to avoid frequent trips to your doctor. Because blood pressure—the force of blood rushing through your arteries—can change from minute to minute, or even from mood to mood, frequent monitoring offers a more accurate picture of your blood pressure’s behavior. At-home monitoring can also alert you to abnormally high or low blood pressure at its earliest stages.
If you have already been diagnosed with hypertension, or high blood pressure, your doctor may suggest you self-test to monitor whether your medication is effective or to help target lifestyle factors that affect your blood pressure. People in high-risk groups for hypertension—African-Americans, overweight individuals, people with diabetes or those with a family history of high blood pressure—may want to keep closer tabs on their blood pressure with at-home testing.
Am I doing it correctly?
The American Heart Association recommends that adults aim to keep their blood pressure below 120/80. To take an accurate reading, follow these guidelines:
- Thirty minutes before the test, avoid eating, exercising, smoking or using medications, such as nasal decongestant sprays, that can affect the test results.
- Fifteen minutes before the test, try to rest and relax.
- During the test, rest your arm—slightly bent—on a flat surface, stay calm and resist talking or moving. Use the same arm every time you test yourself since results can vary from arm to arm.
- Once a year, bring your monitor to your healthcare provider to be checked for accuracy.
Bear in mind, results tend to be higher in the morning and lower in the evening. When in doubt, your doctor can prescribe the testing time and method best for you.
© 2014 Dowden Health Media