Monitoring your own, or a loved one’s, blood pressure at home is possible. In recent years, it has become an essential aspect of proactive and preventative healthcare. If you or a family member has been diagnosed with high blood pressure, it’s important to manage and monitor the condition, which means investing in a blood pressure monitor and keeping track of the results. Discover how to go about monitoring blood pressure at home as Bloom , outlines the best steps to take for home-based care.
Understanding blood pressure
Blood pressure is the measure of force exerted by circulating blood against the walls of blood vessels in the body’s arteries. It is measured in millimetres of mercury (mm Hg) and is expressed as two values: systolic (higher) and diastolic (lower) pressure. Systolic blood pressure represents the force during a heartbeat when the heart contracts, while diastolic pressure signifies the force between heartbeats when the heart is at rest.
Blood pressure readings are typically categorized as follows:
- Normal: Less than 120/80 mm Hg
- Elevated: 120-129/less than 80 mm Hg
- Hypertension Stage 1: 130-139/80-89 mm Hg
- Hypertension Stage 2: 140 or higher/90 or higher mm Hg
- Hypertensive Crisis: Higher than 180/higher than 120 mm Hg (seek immediate medical attention)
High blood pressure, known as hypertension, is a serious health risk because the condition can strain your heart and damage your arteries, increasing your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and other health issues. Low blood pressure, known as hypotension, is less of a health risk and may lead to inadequate blood flow, dizziness or fainting spells.
A high blood pressure reading is considered anything over 140/90mmHg or higher. Individuals who have been diagnosed with hypertension need to monitor and manage their blood pressure through lifestyle changes, medication and check-ups because the condition can contribute to several serious health-related problems, like:
- Heart disease. High blood pressure puts a strain on your heart by making it work harder to pump blood, which can lead to conditions like heart failure or heart attacks.
- Stroke. Hypertension increases your risk of having a stroke because it can damage your blood vessels in the brain, causing blood clots.
- Aneurysms. High BP can cause weak spots in blood vessels, which can form aneurysms. These are weakened, bulging areas in an artery which can rupture, leading to severe internal bleeding that is often life-threatening.
- Kidney damage. High blood pressure can reduce kidney function, making it difficult to filter waste from the blood.
- Reduced vision. Damage to your blood vessels can also lead to problems with your vision and can even lead to permanent blindness.
- Sexual dysfunction. High blood pressure can lead to erectile dysfunction in men and reduced sexual desire in women.
- Metabolic problems. High blood pressure is linked to obesity, insulin resistance and high cholesterol.
Managing blood pressure at home
1. Choosing the right blood pressure monitor
When you buy a blood pressure monitor for home use, consider the following factors:
- Quality. Make sure the monitor has been clinically validated and meets industry standards for accuracy.
- Ease of use. Choose a monitor that is user-friendly and comes with clear instructions.
- Memory. Some blood pressure monitors can store multiple readings, which is very useful for tracking data and trends over time.
- Price. Stick to a monitor that is within your budget. You don’t have to purchase the most expensive product for the best results.
You can ask your GP or healthcare practitioner for some advice about which blood pressure monitor to buy. Generally, there are two types of monitors: digital and manual monitors.
- Digital automatic blood pressure monitors. These are very convenient for home use. They are easy to use and provide accurate readings. It includes an arm cuff, that inflates automatically, and a display screen for the readings.
- Manual blood pressure monitors. These include a manual hand pump, that inflates the arm cuff, and a stethoscope to listen to the blood flow. While they do provide accurate results, a manual blood pressure monitor takes some skill to use so training should be provided.
2. Proper technique for monitoring blood pressure at home
There is a recommended procedure for taking a blood pressure measurement at home. The steps include:
Step 1. Gather all the necessary supplies and prepare for a reading
- Get the blood pressure monitor ready, along with the cuff and find a comfortable spot to conduct the measurement.
- Rest for five minutes before taking the reading as physical activity or stress can affect your blood pressure and the results.
- Your arm should be supported at heart level. It helps to rest your arm on a table or the armrest.
- If necessary, roll up your shirt sleeve or remove any clothing that hinders the application of the arm cuff.
Step 2. Apply the cuff.
- Slide the arm cuff onto your bare arm. The bottom of the cuff should be just above your elbow.
- The cuff shouldn’t be too tight. Ideally, you should still be able to slip two fingers under it.
- Position the cuff’s hose so it runs down the centre of your forearm.
- Turn the monitor on. The cuff will start to inflate.
Step 3. Take the reading.
- Remain still during the blood pressure measurement.
- As the cuff inflates, it will squeeze your arm and you will feel some pressure.
- Gradually, the monitor will release the pressure and the results will be presented on the display monitor.
3. Interpreting your blood pressure at home results
Once you’ve taken your blood pressure reading, you will need to interpret the results. Do so in this manner:
Step 1: Record the readings.
- Note the systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) readings. For example: “120/80 mm Hg.”
- Manually record the measurement if your blood pressure monitor doesn’t do so automatically.
- It’s recommended to take multiple readings at the same time each day.
- Share the results on a regular basis with your GP or healthcare practitioner so they can provide guidance and make health decisions based on your readings over time.
Lifestyle changes for blood pressure management
Given the results of your blood pressure readings over time, you may be advised to make certain lifestyle changes to assist with a management plan. Each individual’s management plan is personalised, based on their risk factors and unique circumstances. Your blood pressure management plan could include:
- A change of diet. Lower your blood pressure by reducing alcohol consumption and your intake of sodium. Limit saturated fats and foods high in cholesterol. Consume caffeine in strict moderation, and monitor its effect on your blood pressure readings. It’s recommended that you stay well hydrated and that you eat a balanced, heart-healthy diet that includes fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.
- Start exercising. Healthcare practitioners recommend engaging in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise every week. It’s advisable to incorporate regular aerobic and strength-training activities into your routine.
- Manage your weight. Take steps to maintain a healthy weight as per your health practitioner’s recommendations. If you are carrying extra weight, this could have a significant impact on your blood pressure health.
- Reduce stress. Stress and anxiety can negatively impact high blood pressure. Practice stress-reducing activities, like breathing techniques, yoga or meditation. Alternatively, embark on some activities that reduce your stress levels, like going for a walk, listening to music or reading.
Quit smoking. Smoking raises your blood pressure by narrowing and constricting blood vessels, increasing the heart’s workload. The nicotine in cigarettes stimulates the release of adrenaline, which elevates your blood pressure even more. Over time, this can also lead to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Type of medication used to manage blood pressure at home
The type and combination of medication used to treat high blood will depend on the individual’s blood pressure levels, as well as any underlying health conditions or risk factors. Some of the medications typically used to treat hypertension include:
- Diuretics. These help eliminate excess sodium and water from your body, reducing blood volume.
- Beta-Blockers. This medication can lower your blood pressure by reducing your heart rate and the force of contractions.
- Alpha-Blockers. These can reduce nerve impulses that tighten blood vessels.
Blood pressure assessment with Health4Me
Bloom encourages a healthy lifestyle, like maintaining a regular exercise plan and sticking to a nutritious diet. We also provide an annual health assessment for Momentum Health4Me members where you can receive a blood pressure screening. These screenings will provide information about your health and will allow you to decide whether you need to make any lifestyle changes or see a healthcare professional.
Get a Momentum Health4Me healthcare quote
Living and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the best way to ensure a normal blood pressure level. However, if you have been diagnosed with hypertension, you can treat the condition with best-practice techniques, including medication and lifestyle changes. Part of this includes monitoring your blood pressure at home. Get healthcare coverage you can rely on with Momentum Health4Me. Contact our team of trained consultants for a free healthcare cover quote.