High blood pressure is no joke! It can increase the risk for heart attack and stroke and lead to long term kidney damage. Research shows that 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure, and half of them don’t have it under control. Checking one’s blood pressure at home is easy, recommended, and may be the key to taking back control!
If you’re caring for a loved one with high blood pressure, this is not something to overlook!
Blood Pressure 101
Since you probably didn’t go to med school, let’s take a second to understand what blood pressure is and why in the world we measure it.
Simply put, blood pressure is a way of measuring how much force is pressing against the walls of your blood vessels as blood flows through them. When the pressure gets too high, it can damage the vessels…and that’s where the problems begin!
There are two measurements:
- Systolic is the top number. It represents the pressure as your heart squeezes to pump blood to the body.
- Diastolic is the bottom number. It represents the pressure between beats, when your heart relaxes.
Here’s a handy chart to help explain what the numbers mean:
Here’s 5 reasons why checking blood pressure at home is cool:
- Early diagnosis: If your loved one has had blood pressure readings at a doctor visit that are elevated, the doctor might not have diagnosed them as having high blood pressure. By monitoring weekly at home you can see a more consistent pattern and help your doctor with an earlier diagnosis.
- Encourage better control: Own it! When you get behind the wheel it can give you a stronger sense of responsibility for your health. It might inspire a better diet, more exercise, and a willingness to take medication.
- Track your treatment: Occasionally the doctor will make changes to blood pressure medications. When you self-monitor, it’s easier to tell if those changes are working. At the next doctor visit, bring a list of those readings. The doctor will be thrilled!
- Save $$: Self-monitoring can gather valuable insights to your blood pressure. This information might reduce the number of doctor visits needed or prevent another medication from being added.
- Uncover “white coat hypertension”: This is a term given to describe spikes in blood pressure due to anxiety when seeing a doctor. Self-monitoring can uncover those irregular times and give a better, more realistic picture of the true blood pressure number.
What do you need to get started?
You need a high-quality, home blood pressure monitor. Don’t let this intimidate you! Today’s models are small, simple to use, and reasonably priced.
I did some checking to see if Medicare Part B covered the cost of a home blood pressure monitor, but the answer is “no.” Bummer! In some cases, I did read that dialysis patients were eligible or that if you have Medicare Part C your insurance provider might allow the coverage. If you want to learn more, it might be worth a phone call!
One great example is the Omron 10 Series Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor. This is a 2-user device, which is great if both of your parents will be using it. It has a 200-reading memory, backlit display, and TruRead Technology.
(Click HERE to buy)
Handy tips for getting a good, accurate reading:
- Do NOT take a blood pressure reading within 30 minutes of drinking coffee, smoking, or exercising.
- After you put the cuff on, sit for a couple minutes and relax before testing
- Use an arm cuff and not a finger or wrist device. The arm devices are more reliable!
- Get the right sized cuff! If you have a large arm…get a large cuff.
- Use one arm, not both.
- Place your arm on a flat surface so the upper arm is supported at the level of the heart.
- Your back should be supported and feet flat on the floor
- Measure twice a day! First in the morning before eating or taking meds, and second in the evening.
- Each time you test, take 2-3 (no more than 3!) readings to guarantee accuracy.
It’s worth it!
Sure, you may not actually think it’s “cool,” as the title implies, but it IS beneficial and important. The higher the blood pressure, the higher the risk your loved one has for heart attack, stroke, or severe kidney damage.
Don’t chance it…monitor it!
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