Why you should check your blood pressure at home
High blood pressure is sometimes called a “silent killer” because it may not show any symptoms at first, but it could be seriously hurting your body. If left untreated, high blood pressure – known as hypertension – can damage your kidneys, heart, brain and other organs for many months.
“Nearly half of adults in the U.S. have hypertension, and lots of different social and lifestyle factors can elevate your blood pressure. Unfortunately, we see even higher rates of uncontrolled hypertension in communities of color,” says Dr. Alvia Siddiqi, Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care chief medical officer of enterprise population health. “This is why it’s so important to routinely check your blood pressure at home and share that information with your primary care physician so together you can work on achieving blood pressure control.”
So what can you do?
Before you know how to deal with high blood pressure, you have to first know what your blood pressure is.
If you are interested in checking your blood pressure, you can purchase blood pressure cuffs at any local pharmacy or online. A blood pressure cuff that goes on the upper arm is the best; however, a wrist cuff is an acceptable alternative.
“The most important step is the first one, when you decide to take control of your health,” says Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care Vice President of Community Health Jackie Rouse. “Tracking your blood pressure at home is easy to do, but if you have any questions about your blood pressure, you should ask a doctor.”
Here are some tips for using a blood pressure cuff:
- Take your blood pressure at the same time every day, such as in the morning or evening.
- Wait at least 30 minutes after smoking, eating or exercising. Don’t drink coffee, tea, soda or other caffeinated drinks before checking your blood pressure. If needed, use the restroom beforehand.
- Sit comfortably at a table with both feet on the floor. Don’t cross your legs or feet. Place the monitor near you.
- Rest for a few minutes before you begin. Make sure there are no distractions. This includes TV, cell phones and other electronics. Wait to have conversations with others until after you measure your blood pressure.
2. Wrap the cuff
- Place your arm on the table, palm up.
- Your arm should be at the level of your heart.
- Wrap the cuff around your upper arm, just above your elbow. It’s best done on bare skin, not over clothing.
- Cuffs should be placed over the blood vessel in the middle of the arm at the inner side of the elbow (the brachial artery). Look in your monitor’s instruction booklet for an illustration.
- You can also bring your cuff to your health care provider if you need further instruction.
3. Inflate the cuff
- Push the button that starts the pump.
- The cuff will tighten, then loosen.
- The numbers will change. When they stop changing, your blood pressure reading will appear.
- Take 2-3 readings one minute apart.
4. Write down the results of each reading
- Write down your blood pressure numbers for each reading. Note the date and time. Keep your results in one place, such as a notebook. Even if your monitor has a built-in memory, keep a hard copy of the readings.
- Bring your blood pressure records with you to each health care provider visit.
- If you start a new blood pressure medicine, note the day you started the new medicine. Also, make note of any changes with the dose of your medicine.
- Measure your blood pressure before you take your medicine. This information goes on your blood pressure recording sheet. This will help your health care provider check how well the medicine changes are working.
- Ask your provider what numbers should signal that you should call him or her. Also, ask what numbers should indicate to get help right away.
Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care has worked with community partners to use clinical treatments, education, at-home blood pressure cuffs and other means to cut the gap in uncontrolled hypertension in communities of color by 13%.
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About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.