Monitoring for blood pressure is best done at home over multiple readings instead of as a one time shot at the Dr’s office
There’s no question that knowing a patient’s blood pressure is a first step to diagnose or correct hypertension or hypotension. Both extremes are indicative of health risks; blood pressure readings that are too high or too low can tell a lot about related functions in the body that are off.
Most people find out what their blood pressure is at a doctor’s office. Typically, only one reading is taken during the visit, and is reported into the patient chart. It’s not uncommon for that reading to be higher than normal either from being nervous about the appointment, feeling rushed, or simply because blood pressure is being taken and so it drives blood pressure up.
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This typical scenario occurs in part because high blood pressure is a serious concern, and also because the patient likely has other health risks and what are called co-morbidities. Comorbidities are things like a tendency toward diabetes, a family history of heart disease, being overweight, and so on. That said, should a one-time reading be sufficient to make this decision?
Interpreting blood pressure incorrectly coupled with the common tendency to over prescribe means that being placed on a blood pressure medication is nearly routine. Many patients think nothing of it.
A better way to attain a more accurate reading is to take a series of blood pressure readings at home using a digital pressure cuff, which is a simple to use blood pressure machine. Not only is it easy to do, but it will allow for better informed decision making. Simply follow these simple steps:
Extend the left arm, placing the cuff snug around the bicep and making sure the cuff sits above the elbow; it should be snug but not tight.
Align the cuff such that the center tube from the cuff to the pressure monitor is running down the inside center crease inside of the left arm.
Relax the arm by sitting comfortably at a table (or on a chair with an arm rest); do not tense.
Press the button and let the machine run to get a readout (it will stop automatically), and then write down the two numbers, called systolic and diastolic readings, and the heart rate, or pulse. It will look more or less like this: 120/60, 72.
Repeat two more times, about two minutes apart each, and write down the numbers each time. For example:
BP 1: 120/72, 76
BP 2: 135/68, 70
BP 3: 128/72, 74
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Because blood pressure will vary from day to day and even within the same day, and intentionally responds to circumstances and events that crop up during the day, use the following strategies to get an even more accurate average:
- Take a first blood pressure reading upon waking before having eaten or drank anything—food and any drink other than water can affect blood pressure.
- Write the systolic, diastolic, and heart rate numbers down; relax and wait about two minutes, then take another reading, and then a third. Average those three readings, and mark that as the (A.M.) daily blood pressure reading on a sheet of paper
- Repeat the exact same steps as above again in the evening, usually around the early part of the evening before dinner. Mark that as your P.M. calculation.
Do this every morning for a week and at the end of the week for a more realistic understanding of what the blood pressure really is. This is a better way to evaluate medications, make decisions, and to examine where across the week a blood pressure spike is most likely to occur.
Learn more about this topic? Read further on the “Salt v. Sodium” debate in my blog and start calculating your own health biomarkers like blood pressure and sodium, today.
Dr. Douglas J. Pucci, Founder, Get Well Now, is a functional medicine pioneer and Bergen County’s Face of Functional Medicine. He was honored to receive both The Best Of 2020 Awards for Functional Medicine in Oradell, NJ, and entry into Trademark Publications’ 2020 Who’s Who Directory, Honors Edition.
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