November 4th: Check Your Blood Pressure Day
The holidays are quickly approaching, and with that comes stress and anxiety for many people. Add in the extra concerns about COVID-19 and those at risk of developing high blood pressure, or individuals who already have it, will need to practice extra caution to stay healthy. High blood pressure often comes without symptoms, and if left unchecked, could result in serious consequences. To get a baseline reading before the hectic season really sets in, we are encouraging everyone to recognize Check Your Blood Pressure Day on November 4th.
How to Monitor Blood Pressure at Home
While visiting your doctor or a medical office is the ideal way to have your blood pressure checked, you can easily monitor it yourself at home. Of course, you’ll need to start with a quality home blood pressure monitor that can be purchased at your local pharmacy. When you’re ready to check, be sure to do the following:
- Prepare early. Do not smoke, drink caffeine, or exercise within 30 minutes prior. Also empty your bladder and rest quietly for at least 5 minutes before testing.
- Sit correctly. You should sit with your back straight and supported – the American Heart Association recommends using a dining chair as opposed to a sofa. Keep your feet flat on the floor and do not cross your legs. Your testing arm should be supported on a flat surface with the upper arm at heart level. The bottom of the cuff should be placed directly above the bend of your elbow. The measurement should also be done on your bare arm – don’t take the measurement over clothing. Your monitor should also have instructions or an illustration to show proper placement, or you can ask your healthcare provider for a demonstration.
- Take multiple readings. When you measure, take two or three readings each one minute apart and record the results to take with you to your doctor.
- Measuring daily? Keep it at the same time. Because your blood pressure can fluctuate throughout the day, take the readings at the same time each day for a consistent measurement.
What Do My Numbers Mean?
So, you’ve decided to check your blood pressure at home, but what do your numbers mean exactly? The top or first number is your systolic blood pressure, which indicates the pressure your blood exerts against your artery walls when the heart beats. The bottom or second number is your diastolic blood pressure, which is the pressure the blood exerts against your artery walls between beats when the heart is resting. There are several blood pressure ranges that could lead to problems if left untreated:
- Normal: A systolic number of less than 120 and diastolic number of less than 80
- Elevated: A systolic number at or between 120-129 and a diastolic number of less than 80
- High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Stage 1: A systolic number at or between 130-139, or a diastolic number at or between 80-89
- High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Stage 2: A systolic number of 140 or higher, or a diastolic number of 90 or higher
- Hypertensive Crisis: A systolic number of 180 or higher, and/or a diastolic number of 120 or higher – requires immediate attention by a doctor
If you receive a reading that falls within any range other than normal, visit your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment options. Anything within the hypertensive crisis range requires attention right away, so be sure to contact your doctor immediately. Low blood pressure is also a concern, especially if you experience other symptoms such as dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea, and more.
Why You Should Know Your Numbers Before the Holidays
Those who are at risk of developing high blood pressure or already have it could will need to be extra careful during the holiday season. The extra stress and often poor nutritional choices can often make blood pressure worse, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke. Even for those who aren’t currently at risk, the holidays can often lead to self-sabotage, so the American Heart Association recommends taking the following precautions:
- Watch your Sodium Intake. Eating foods with too much sodium may increase your blood pressure and cause your body to hold on to excess fluid, adding to the burden on your heart. Be cautious around breads, cheeses, and prepared meats, and talk with your doctor about following a low-sodium diet.
- Try not to Stress. This one is tough for a lot of reasons, but still important. When you’re stressed, your body releases adrenaline and cortisol into the blood, causing your heart to beat faster and constricting blood vessels, raising blood pressure temporarily. Chronic stress has your body going into this fight or flight mode repeatedly for days and weeks at a time, and these feelings could have you making unhealthy lifestyle choices.
- Take your Medicine. If you’ve been prescribed medication for your blood pressure by your physician, be sure to take it as instructed.
- Beware of Certain Over-the-Counter Medications. When you have a cold or flu, you want to feel better, but decongestants could raise your blood pressure. The worst offenders include those that contain oxymetazoline, phenylephrine, or pseudoephedrine. Be sure to consult with your doctor if you have questions.
Diagnosing High Blood Pressure
Regardless of your blood pressure reading at home, it’s always ideal to have your numbers verified by a physician. If it has been a while since you’ve had your blood pressure checked, or you don’t want to wait for an appointment, visit one of our convenient Midwest Express Clinic locations today. We will provide you with a professional measurement, as well as discuss treatment or management options with you depending on your unique needs.