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Don’t Let High Blood Pressure Sneak Up On You- Monitor It At Home

I think everyone should own a blood pressure monitor. It’s one of the easiest ways you can keep tabs on whether or not high blood pressure is an issue for you.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1 in 3 adults in the United States has high blood pressure, and half of them don’t have it under control. High blood pressure increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, the leading causes of death in the United States. Aside from the obvious risks of heart attack and stroke, uncontrolled hypertension can also lead to kidney failure, memory problems, dementia, vision loss and diabetes.

Ask your doctor for a blood pressure reading at least every two years starting at age 18. If you’re age 40 or older, or you’re 18 to 39 with a high risk of high blood pressure, ask your doctor for a blood pressure reading every year.

Blood pressure generally should be checked in both arms to determine if there’s a difference. It’s important to use an appropriate-sized arm cuff.

Your doctor will likely recommend more frequent readings if you’ve already been diagnosed with high blood pressure or have other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Children age 3 and older will usually have blood pressure measured as a part of their yearly checkups.

Personally, I wouldn’t wait for your doctor to check your blood pressure. It’s easy enough to do at home and the results can tell you a lot about the impact your lifestyle and eating habits are having on your blood pressure.

Most people don’t realize that your blood pressure can fluctuate throughout the day, sometimes significantly, caused by things like stress, sodium intake, smoking, caffeine and eating a high fat meal.

For most adults, there’s no identifiable cause of high blood pressure. This type of high blood pressure, called primary (essential) hypertension, tends to develop gradually over many years.

𝗦𝗲𝗰𝗼𝗻𝗱𝗮𝗿𝘆 𝗛𝘆𝗽𝗲𝗿𝘁𝗲𝗻𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻

Some people have high blood pressure caused by an underlying condition. This type of high blood pressure, called secondary hypertension, tends to appear suddenly and cause higher blood pressure than does primary hypertension. Various conditions and medications can lead to secondary hypertension, including:

• Obstructive sleep apnea

• Kidney problems

• Adrenal gland tumors

• Thyroid problems

• Certain defects you’re born with (congenital) in blood vessels

• Certain medications, such as birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers and some prescription drugs

• Illegal drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines

𝗠𝗼𝗻𝗶𝘁𝗼𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗔𝘁 𝗛𝗼𝗺𝗲

You can buy a good home blood pressure monitor at a pharmacy or online merchant for anywhere from $50 to $100. (Ask if your insurance company will cover the cost.) A few things to look for:

• an automatic monitor that doesn’t require a stethoscope (it’s easier to use)

• a monitor that takes the blood pressure reading using a cuff that fits around the upper arm;

• a read-out large enough for you to see the numbers;

• a seal from an organization such as the British Hypertension Society, International Protocol for the Validation of Automated BP Measuring Devices, or Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI)

Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist for help calibrating your monitor and learning how to use it.

𝗛𝗼𝘄 𝗢𝗳𝘁𝗲𝗻 𝗦𝗵𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗬𝗼𝘂 𝗖𝗵𝗲𝗰𝗸?

At first, take your blood pressure twice a day for a week. The best times are early in the morning (before you have taken any blood pressure medications, if prescribed) and again in the evening.

Write down your results and if you find your readings are regularly above 120/80, you should make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your blood pressure and the various remedies to control it, such as changing your diet and adding an exercise routine or possibly the need for daily medication.

Just remember that home monitoring should not be used as a substitute for regular physician check-ups, especially for patients with poorly controlled blood pressure.

Getting a handle on high blood pressure early on is a critical step in making sure serious health issues don’t develop down the road. With the increasing incidence of obesity and an American diet high on convenience & processed foods sky-high in sodium, sugar, and fat, it’s more important than ever to keep close tabs on your blood pressure.

Your life truly does depend on it!

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