Checking Blood Pressure at Home

David Mendosa Health Guide April 19, 2007
  • Sometimes we need to rely on our doctors. But checking our blood pressure isn’t one of those times.
     

    If you are lucky, every time you see your primary care physician or endocrinologist, somebody in the office will check your blood pressure. If you are especially lucky, somebody will tell you what the numbers are and they will be pretty accurate.

    You will need that good luck. For several reasons you aren’t likely to get it.

    Many people have “white-coat hypertension.” They become nervous at the doctor’s office and have higher readings that they normally would at home.

    The other problem is that medical people are a bit busy these days, and they often rush when they need to pause. I ran into that at my most recent visit to a doctor’s office.


    The nurse checked my blood pressure as soon as she came in the room. I’m sure that she knew as well as I did that patients are supposed to sit still for five minutes before the test. But she was too rushed, and my numbers were predictably too high.

    Even when I mentioned it to the doctor, if he actually listened to me, he didn’t appear to care. Worse, nobody had ever told me that having a full bladder can change the blood pressure reading. I discovered that only from reading the link above.

    The better alternative is to check your blood pressure at home. In earlier articles I have written about blood pressure meters from GenExel-Sein and Omron  and from the Diabetic Support Program (Prescriptions Plus).

    Even better is the new Prodigy Duo, a blood glucose and blood pressure monitoring system, from Diagnostic Devices Inc. in Charlotte, North Carolina. This talking meter is easy and convenient to use.

    It also happens to be the least expensive. You can get one for about $55 from medical supply companies that cater to people with diabetes like Advanced Diabetes Supply.

    Even more than most Americans, people with diabetes need to test our blood pressure regularly and keep it in check. In adults, the systolic pressure – when the heart contracts or beats – should be less than 120 millimeters of mercury. The diastolic pressure – when the heart relaxes between beats – should be less than 80 millimeters of mercury.

    But we usually don’t have any symptoms of high blood pressure, so most people can’t sense if it is high. High blood pressure increases the risk of heart failure, heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure. For people who have high blood pressure, checking it is a way of monitoring the effectiveness of what they are doing to control it.

    About 65 million American adults – nearly one-third – have high blood pressure.   But almost three-fourths of adults with diabetes have high blood pressure or take a prescription drug in an effort to control it. 

    You have a choice of more than a hundred blood pressure medicines in several drug classes. The first of a new class is just becoming available, according to an article in the May 2007 issue of the “Harvard Health Letter.”

    The new drug is Tekturna. It seems to have fewer side effects and needs to be taken only once a day.


  • But what if you would rather not take yet another drug? In that case you could always exercise more or cut back on your salt.


    Meditation might also help. Meditation can certainly reduce our tension. And hypertension – as the word and the need to relax before checking our blood pressure indicate – seems to have something to do with tension.