Hypertension Controlling Measuring

Controlling high blood pressure forces people to examine their lifestyles. Blood pressure responds to changes in:

  • Diet
  • Exercise level
  • Stress management.

Patients take an active role in controlling their blood pressure both by active prevention measures and learning to measure blood pressure.

Taking blood pressure measurements regularly allows individuals and their doctors to gauge how hypertension responds to medication and lifestyle changes. Due to the lack of visible hypertension symptoms, a blood pressure measurement is the only way to determine how well someone responds to treatment. Reducing hypertension is essential in preventing damage to the heart and other internal organs.

For pregnant women with hypertension, taking blood pressure measurements is even more important. If left untreated, hypertension can cause problems for both the mother and the fetus.

Untreated hypertension increases the risk of developing a range of complications including malignant hypertension, which is a medical emergency in which blood pressure rapidly rises, damaging multiple organs such as the:

  • Blood vessels
  • Brain
  • Eyes
  • Heart
  • Kidneys.

Taking Blood Pressure at Home

Monitoring blood pressure at home has its benefits. Normally, people don’t spend the day waiting around a doctor’s office, so doctors’ blood pressure readings may not reflect normal blood pressure during daily activities. Measuring blood pressure at home will provide patients and doctors with accurate information reflecting daily fluctuations.

Using a Blood Pressure Machine

Blood pressure can be measured at home by purchasing a blood pressure device from drug stores. Many of the newer blood pressure devices are electronic and don’t require the use of stethoscopes. Periodically measure blood pressure at home and compare the results with a doctor’s blood pressure machine to ensure the home device works properly.

Taking Blood Pressure Readings

When taking blood pressure, follow the blood pressure machine’s directions carefully and keep the following in mind:

  • Avoid caffeine, smoking and alcohol at least 30 minutes before taking blood pressure measurements. These substances will temporarily alter blood pressure.
  • Don’t round off numbers. If a blood pressure measurement is 154mm Hg, don’t round off to 150mm Hg. A few millimeters can make a big difference.
  • Don’t talk or cross your legs when you measure blood pressure.
  • Make sure your home blood pressure machine functions properly. Have doctors check your blood pressure device after purchasing it, and have the machine serviced annually.
  • Make sure the blood pressure device cuff is an appropriate size. If it is too small or too large, the blood pressure measurements will be inaccurate. In general, the inflatable part of the cuff should be able to wrap around the upper arm.
  • Measure blood pressure around the same time each day. The recommended times are after waking up and right before dinner, unless doctors advise otherwise.
  • Sit in a chair with your back supported and your arm at the level of your heart, palm facing up. Rest for a few minutes in this position before taking your blood pressure.
  • Stay relaxed and focused. Emotions, physical activity and the surrounding environment affect blood pressure. Keep distractions to a minimum in order to get an accurate reading.
  • Use the restroom before taking a blood pressure measurement.

Resources

American Academy of Family Physicians Staff. (2009). Blood pressure monitoring at home. retrieved March 5, 2010, from the Family Doctor Web site: http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/common/heartdisease/treatment/128.html.

Cleveland Clinic Health System Staff. (n.d.). Checking your blood pressure at home. Retrieved March 5, 2010, from the Cleveland Clinic Web site: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/Hypertension_High_Blood_Pressure/hic_Checking_Your_Blood_Pressure_at_Home.aspx.

U.S. National Library of Medicine Staff. (2009). Malignant hypertension. Retrieved March 5, 2010, from the MedlinePlus Web site: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000491.htm.