This What I Learned Monitoring My Blood Pressure post is sponsored by Omron. As always, thank you for supporting Skinny Fitalicious and the awesome companies that I have the opportunity to partner with!
I'm all about being as proactive about health as possible which is why I committed to Going for Zero. The last 4 months I've been monitoring my blood pressure and have learned so much!
Here's what I learned monitoring my blood pressure. When I'm stressed, sick, dehydrated or drink too much caffeine, my blood pressure is higher than normal. Additionally, I've noticed when I take my blood pressure in the afternoon it's higher if I sit too long or drink too much caffeine later morning. Since I work from home, I tend to sit a lot and drink a lot of coffee. Now I set a timer on my phone to remind myself to get up and walk around and have cut back on the coffee.
Before I began measuring my blood pressure, I only had mine measured when I went to the doctor. The problem with that is it's only a snapshot in time of your health, and not an ongoing record of what's going on. You could say using Omron's blood pressure monitor, the EVOLV has opened my eyes not only to the status of my overall health, but also the behaviors I can proactively change now. Because let's face it, I'm 40 and not getting any younger.
Watch the video to hear more about what I learned taking my blood pressure for 4 months!
With my partnership with Omron, I was also given the opportunity to connect with Dr. James Rippe, M.D. Renowned Cardiologist and Founder and Director of the Rippe Lifestyle Institute to ask questions. His answers were very eye opening like how being proactive now can greatly reduce your risk for developing high blood pressure and related diseases.
Q. What are the new standards for blood pressure?
A. The new ACC/AHA guidelines define hypertension as a blood pressure reading of 130/80 mmHg or higher. Blood pressure categories in the new guidelines are:
- Normal: Less than 120/80 mm Hg;
- Elevated: Systolic between 120-129 and diastolic less than 80;
- Stage 1: Systolic between 130-139 or diastolic between 80-89;
- Stage 2: Systolic at least 140 or diastolic at least 90 mm Hg
- Hypertensive crisis: Systolic over 180 and/or diastolic over 120, with patients needing prompt changes in medication if there are no other indications of problems, or immediate hospitalization if there are signs of organ damage.
The new guidelines were intended for better detection, prevention and treatment of high blood pressure. The new guidelines lower the definition of high blood pressure to account for complications that can occur at lower numbers and to allow for earlier intervention.
This doesn’t mean, however, that all who fall in the elevated or Stage 1 hypertensive categories will require antihypertensive medication. It’s meant to be a yellow light to caution you to take action and lower your numbers, mainly with non-drug approaches.
Patients with a reading of 130/80 already have double the cardiovascular risk compared to those with a normal blood pressure, so if you already have a doubling of your risk, you need to know about it. (1) High blood pressure has been known to be one of the leading risk factors in a heart attack or stroke.
Q. What does the top number and bottom number mean?
A. Blood pressure readings measure two numbers, systolic blood pressure (the top number) and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number).
The top number (systolic pressure) refers to the amount of pressure in your arteries during the contraction of your heart muscle. The bottom number (diastolic pressure) refers to your blood pressure when your heart muscle is between beats. Both numbers are important in determining the state of your heart health.
Numbers greater than the ideal range indicate that your heart is working too hard to pump blood to the rest of your body. (2)
Q. What do you do if you're blood pressure is too high or too low?
A. There are a few things you can do if you find yourself in an abnormal blood pressure range.
First, know your numbers. If you aren’t regularly monitoring your blood pressure at home, during different times of the day, you won’t be able to track your heart health trends accurately. Do you tend to be on the high side at night, or in the mornings? Are your average readings generally normal, with one or two spikes due to stressful events?
Having more accurate data is the best way to help your physician know the total picture – leading to better treatment plans and better outcomes. Consider purchasing a home blood pressure monitor so you can keep track of your numbers at all times. Omron home blood pressure monitors are the number 1 doctor and pharmacist recommended brand. (3)
Second, implement lifestyle changes such as eating a healthier diet, increasing physical activity, reducing smoke and alcohol intake. These are all active ways within your control that you can help to normalize your blood pressure numbers and reduce your risk. According to the National Stroke Association, exercising moderately for 30 minutes two or more times a week will help prevent a stroke. All physical activity makes a difference – break it up into 10 to 15-minute segments if needed, to reach the full recommended 150 minutes for the week. Higher physical activity levels have also been found to lower stress, another risk factor for stroke.
Third, communicate with your doctor regularly. Having an ongoing dialogue with your physician about your heart health and blood pressure is really the best way to know if you are having a good handle on your condition, or if your treatment plan needs to be tweaked.
Share your blood pressure trends with him/her regularly and let your doctor know if there have been major changes in your life or health that could affect your condition. There are now heart health apps available that help you store, track and share your heart health data with ease, such as the Omron Connect App – it links with all connected Omron blood pressure monitors, so you can sync your readings, track them over time and share them electronically with your physicians.
Q. What are known risk factors for high blood pressure?
A. There are several risk factors that can contribute to high blood pressure. Certain medical conditions like diabetes can put you at higher risk. Lifestyle habits like inactivity, poor diet and alcohol use have also been linked to higher blood pressure. Your family history may also play a role. If your family has a history of heart disease or high blood pressure, you should keep an eye on your personal readings as well.5
Q. What do you do if you have some hypertensive days and others that are normal?
A. Your blood pressure can spike when you’re feeling stressed, after you’ve had caffeine, or if there’s something new happening in your life. If you’re noticing that your blood pressure is typically in the normal range, but with a few spikes here and there, try keeping a log of your activities before each reading.
This can help you pinpoint what may be causing your blood pressure to increase, so you can be proactive about keeping it normal. If higher blood pressure readings are consistently appearing in your monitoring, consult your physician to see if there are steps you can take to lower your blood pressure.
Q. What is the best time of day to monitor your blood pressure?
A. The first measurement should be in the morning before eating or taking any medications, and the second in the evening. Each time you measure, take two or three readings to make sure your results are accurate. Your doctor might recommend taking your blood pressure at the same times each day. If you exercise after waking, take your blood pressure before exercising.
Q. What can you learn about your heart health from monitoring your blood pressure?
A. Knowing your numbers allows you to get a better sense of what your heart health actually is. Typically, most people only get their blood pressure checked during their annual doctor’s visit, but this only provides a snapshot in time of your blood pressure. Monitoring regularly lets you find whether you usually skew higher or lower on a day-to-day basis.
Q. Does it matter if it’s taken in one arm vs the other?
A. Typically blood pressure should measure the same in both arms. I recommend measuring on both arms and using the higher reading if there is any fluctuation. If you notice a significant difference in readings between each arm, talk to your doctor as this could indicate an underlying problem.
Q. Is hypertension reversible with diet and exercise?
A. Diet and exercise can reduce blood pressure significantly. Choosing healthy lifestyle habits, even after you’ve been diagnosed as hypertensive, can have a profound effect on your blood pressure numbers. All hypertension cases are different, but if you are in the prehypertension range, adopting these healthy habits can help normalize your numbers.
Q. What would you like people to understand about blood pressure most?
A. There is a lot you can do now to reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure. Most importantly, know your numbers. Learning about the life events, stress and other factors that trigger higher blood pressure readings can clue you in to the steps needed to normalize your numbers.
(3) Based on a survey (3/9/2015 – 4/1/2015) conducted among the physicians who recommend a home blood pressure monitor brand.
(4) National Stroke Association: http://www.stroke.org/understand-stroke/preventing-stroke/lifestyle-risk-factors