Why Blood Pressure Changes? Learn How to Use BP Machine
Get the most out of home blood pressure monitoring
Home blood pressure monitoring gives people a chance to test their blood pressure on their own schedule — whenever it suits them best. But self-monitoring requires some planning ahead. You’ll want to set up a system at home that works well for you, including devices and supplies. Then you’ll need to learn how to take your measurements correctly. Finally, you’ll need to record your readings accurately and consistently.
Types of home monitors
Most pharmacies, medical supply stores, and some websites sell home monitors. They are used to measure blood pressure and pulse. Some people use them regularly; others just occasionally.
Experts recommend an automatic or electronic monitor. A manual monitor requires you to press a button every few minutes to check your blood pressure. An automatic monitor does it automatically without requiring you to do anything. You don’t even have to remember to turn it on each morning.
Your health care provider can help guide you toward the type of monitor that’s best for your needs. He or she might ask about how often you’ll use the monitor, whether you’re taking medications that affect blood pressure, and what you want to know about your readings.
You can buy monitors online and at many retailers. Ask your pharmacist or doctor where he or she recommends buying one. Or look up “home monitors” on Amazon, Walmart, Target or another retailer’s site.
Features to consider
When choosing a blood pressure monitor it is important to consider features such as cuff size, having a properly fitted cuff, cuffs that don’t fit well, display type, and how many readings per hour the device can store.
The most common way to measure blood pressure is via a manual method where a doctor places a stethoscope over the brachial artery on the inside of the upper arm. This is called auscultation because it requires listening to sounds produced by the heart. Auscultation is considered the gold standard for measuring blood pressure. However, there are drawbacks to this method. For example, it takes longer to do than automated methods, and it does not provide continuous monitoring.
Auscultation involves placing a small microphone near the wrist and listening for sounds known as Korotkoff sounds. These sounds occur when the arteries open up during systole and close again during diastole. The sound waves travel down the arteries and into the carotid sinus, located just above the carotid bifurcation. As blood flows through the carotid sinuses, the impedance changes and the resulting electrical signal is picked up by the microphone.
While auscultation provides the best accuracy, it is difficult to use on patients with low blood pressures because the sounds become faint. In addition, the process requires training and skill to perform correctly. Therefore, automated devices are preferred.
Having Properly Fitting Cuff
If a patient’s blood pressure is measured incorrectly, it could lead to unnecessary treatment. To ensure proper cuff sizing, ask your healthcare provider about the correct cuff size needed for your individual needs. If you’re unsure, take your blood pressure at home while wearing the same clothes you wore to work and compare the results.
Monitor calibration is important because color displays are very sensitive to light levels, temperature changes, humidity, and aging. If you don’t calibrate your display every year, colors could start to fade over time.
If you’re concerned about how accurate your monitor is, bring it to your provider’s offices. They’ll take measurements, including luminance, black level, white level, gamma, contrast ratio, brightness, and hue. You can use the data to compare against manufacturer specifications.
Tips for accurate use
The American Heart Association recommends that people check their blood pressure regularly – at least twice per day. If you’re taking medication for high blood pressure, it’s important to know how many pills you take daily, and how to properly administer them. You’ll want to keep track of your readings over time, too.
No matter what type of home monitor you choose, proper usage requires training and practice. Make sure you understand how to read the numbers displayed on your monitor and are comfortable operating the equipment.
To help ensure accurate blood pressure measurement at home, follow these tips:
Check to be sure your device isn’t damaged.
Before using a monitor, have someone else check to see if yours is working correctly. This includes making sure the cuff fits securely around your arm, and that there aren’t any leaks.
Don’t wear loose clothing. Loose sleeves or pants can affect accuracy.
If you’re taking medication, don’t change your dose without talking to your doctor.
Tracking your blood pressure readings
Some people use a notebook to track their blood pressure readings. They write down what time it is, how many times they took their reading, and whether it was high or low. Others use an electronic personal health record (EHR). These records are stored online and shared with health care providers.
If you have an EHR, you might choose to store your information using a computer, tablet or smartphone. You could even sync it with an app like Apple Health Kit or Microsoft Band. This gives you the option to share your readings with your doctors and family members.
Some blood pressure monitors upload this information automatically. Many do this via Bluetooth technology. However, some require manual entry of the data into the monitor itself.
If your blood pressure is well managed, talk to your doctor about whether you need to monitor it at home. Your provider might suggest checking blood pressure every day or a few times per week, depending on your situation.
Home blood pressure monitoring is not meant to replace regular office visits. But if you are seeing a different doctor from one who prescribed your medication, you might want to start tracking your blood pressure at home.
The American Heart Association recommends measuring your blood pressure at least twice a month while taking your usual medicine, but doing so daily isn’t necessary.
Your doctor might advise against home blood pressure monitoring if you are newly diagnosed with high blood pressure or if you are already taking multiple medicines to control your hypertension.
Even if you get readings that fall within normal limits, don’t stop or alter your treatment regimen without consulting your provider first.
Blood pressure categories
The five blood pressure ranges as defined by the American Heart Association include normal, prehypertension, stage I hypertension, stage II hypertension, and severe hypertension. Normal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg; prehypertension is 121–139/81–89 mmHg; stage I hypertension is 140–159/90–99 mmHg; stage II hypertension is 160–179/100–109 mmHg; and severe hypertension is ≥180/110 mmHg.
Hypertension Stage 1
Blood pressure levels between 130/80 and 139/89 mmHg are considered hypertensive. This stage is often referred to as prehypertension because it does not meet the criteria for hypertension. However, people who experience symptoms like headaches, chest pain, irregular heartbeat, dizziness, fatigue, vision problems, or shortness of breath should see their doctor immediately. High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
Hypertension Stage 2
Hypertension Stage 2 is defined as having persistent hypertension (blood pressure consistently ranging at 140/90 mmHg or higher). This stage occurs when people fail to control their blood pressure despite taking multiple medications over several months.
At this stage of high blood pressures, doctors are likely to recommend lifestyle modifications such as weight loss, exercise, stress management, smoking cessation, alcohol moderation, salt restriction, and dietary modification. They may also suggest medications including beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, diuretics, or aldosterone antagonists. These drugs help lower blood pressure by relaxing arteries, reducing fluid retention, lowering heart rate, or blocking the effects of excess hormones.
High blood pressure is often referred to as “the silent killer.” Most people don’t even know they have it until there is a problem. Hypertension is one of the most common chronic diseases affecting Americans today. High blood pressure affects about 50 million adults in the United States. In fact, half of American adults over age 20 have high blood pressure. But many cases go undiagnosed because symptoms aren’t always obvious.
The good news is that hypertension doesn’t necessarily mean you’re destined to develop heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, or dementia. However, if left untreated, high blood pressure puts you at risk for developing those conditions. And the earlier you seek treatment, the better off you’ll be.