High blood pressure is often called a silent killer since symptoms are rarely detected. Learn how often you should be having your blood pressure checked to fight this silent killer.
Having high blood pressure, or hypertension, can increase your risk of stroke, heart attack, aneurysm, and other complications. Monitoring your blood pressure can play an important part in the treatment plan of your high blood pressure and just how often should you monitor your blood pressure can depend upon a variety of factors.
What is Considered High Blood Pressure?
Before discussing how often you should be monitoring your blood pressure, it is important to understand what high blood pressure is considered to be.
Your blood pressure reading consists of two numbers. The top number is called the systolic number and refers to your blood pressure when your heart contracts. The bottom number, or diastolic number, refers to your blood pressure when your heart is at rest.
Recently, the recommendations of what is considered normal blood pressure were changed. The American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) issued a joint recommendation that normal blood pressure is considered to be lower than 120/80. For systolic readings of 120-129 with a diastolic below 80, your blood pressure would be considered elevated. Stage 1 high blood pressure now begins with a systolic reading of 130-139 and diastolic of 80-89 or 130-139/80-89. Stage 2 is any reading with a systolic of 140 or above or diastolic of 90 or above.
When Should Your Blood Pressure Start to be Monitored
Monitoring your blood pressure is most likely a part of your yearly exam with your doctor. Pediatricians will usually start taking blood pressure readings in children older than the age of two. For adults, it is recommended that your blood pressure be monitored yearly, starting at the age of 18 years old.
Frequency of Blood Pressure Checks
If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor may want you to begin monitoring your blood pressure at home. For some, this may mean daily readings until your doctor feels your blood pressure is better under control. For others, your healthcare provider may only want weekly readings.
In general, your blood pressure should be monitored daily for at least two weeks after any changes in blood pressure medication. If your blood pressure improves and stabilizes after two weeks, your doctor may tell you to monitor a couple times a week.
Your blood pressure can fluctuate throughout the day. It is not uncommon for your first morning readings to be slightly higher than readings later in the day. For this reason, it may be recommended to take two readings per day, one morning reading when you get up and a reading later in the evening. This will provide a more accurate picture of your blood pressure throughout the day.
Where to Check Your Blood Pressure
While your doctor will do a blood pressure check at your yearly physical exam, this one reading does not give you the whole picture regarding your blood pressure. For some patients, the reading at the doctor’s office can be unusually high; this is known as white coat syndrome. For this reason, most doctors like patients to take readings outside of the office too. ;
So, where should you have your blood pressure checked? Here are some options of places that may offer blood pressure monitoring:
- Your local pharmacy: Smith-Caldwell offers a free, computerized blood pressure machine.
- Place of work: Many employers now offer monthly screenings.
- Local fire station: Call your community fire station to see if this is a service that is offered.
- Senior center: See if your local senior center offers this service on a regular basis.
While the above are all good options, the best option is probably in your own home. Digital blood pressure machines are very easy to use. Also, taking your blood pressure at home will give you a good idea of what a typical reading for you is.
Measuring Your Blood Pressure at Home
There are two options when measuring your blood pressure at home: manual meters and digital meters. Most people choose digital meters for their ease of use. When buying a digital blood pressure monitor, it is best to get one with the arm cuff versus a wrist or finger cuff. Wrist and finger cuffs are not as accurate as the arm cuff monitor.
Once you buy your monitor, you should bring it to your doctor’s office to compare readings from your monitor and the doctor’s monitor. This way, you and your doctor will be able to know if the numbers correlate with each other. It is not unusual for a home meter to be off by as much as 5-10 mmHg in its reading. This can potentially make a big difference in your treatment.
After your monitor has been compared with your doctor’s monitor, you are ready to take your blood pressure. Here are some tips to get the most accurate reading:
- Use the appropriate cuff size. Using a cuff that is too small, too big, or is painful can give you non-accurate readings.
- Empty your bladder before checking. A full bladder may slightly increase your reading.
- Your arm should rest at chest level and your feet should be on the floor and uncrossed.
- Some factors that cause your blood pressure to be temporarily higher include stress, caffeine, certain medications, exercise, and smoking.
- Don’t wear tight clothing.
Recording Your Blood Pressure Readings
Keep a journal of your readings to bring to your doctor’s office visit. This will give your doctor a good idea of how your blood pressure is being controlled. The blood pressure journal should include:
- Time of Day
- Blood pressure reading (ex: 120/80)
- Where the reading was taken (home or work)
- Notes about the reading like “stressed,” “sick,” “meal eaten,” or “just exercised”
Knowing your blood pressure is an important part of your self-care. Visit your local pharmacy, Smith-Caldwell for a free blood pressure reading. Contact us at 501-392-5470 with any questions.