In March 2014 the new blood pressure guidelines were published. The National Institute of Health appointed the nation's top experts to committees over the past five years to establish new hypertension guidelines. The results relaxed the standards of blood pressure readings for people 60 and over. Prior to these new results the standard guideline for drug treatment for hypertension was a reading of 140/90. The newly posted guidelines have increased the readings to 150/90 for those 60 and over. The release of the new guidelines have been very controversial.
Regardless of the new findings a blood pressure reading above 120/80 and below 140/90 is considered pre-hypertension. Research has shown that home monitoring of your blood pressure decreases your chance of a heart attack or stroke. The problem is improper readings due to lack of knowledge and techniques.
First off how do you know which monitor is best for you? There are hundreds of monitors in the market place and contrary to belief the most expensive is not always the most accurate. Always discuss with your cardiologist the best monitor and techniques for your situation. Two great web resources are the Dabl educational trust (www.dableducational.org) and the British hypertension society (www.bhsoc.org). Both of these websites reviewed hundreds of monitors and rates them according to accuracy.
Keep in mind that just because your monitor was rated accurately doesn't mean it can't change. If you drop your monitor, spill water or expose it to low and high temperature changes you need to have it calibrated. Most home monitors suggest that you calibrate your meter every other year. This procedure needs to be done by the manufacturer. Check the instructions with your meter to find out where you can send it to be tested.
To make sure you get the most accurate reading you need to monitor your technique.
- If possible take your blood pressure in your left arm as it is closest to the heart.
- Don't put the cuff over a shirt or blouse. This will affect the reading. Put the cuff around your bare skin.
- Sit for 3 to 5 minutes with your legs uncrossed before taking a reading. Take deep breaths if needed.
- Make sure you have the correct size cuff for your arm.
- Be FABulouse -F is for feet securely on the ground. A is for arm supported at heart level and B is for your back against a chair or wall.
- Your blood pressure is lowere when your bladder is empty. As your bladder fills your blood pressure increases. If possible empty your bladder first.
- Your blood pressure is generally higher first thing in the morning. You should wait a bit before waking up to take it.
- You should take your blood pressure at the same time everyday.
- You should take your blood pressure before taking medications.
- Alcohol and caffeine should be avoided 30 minutes before taking your blood pressure as this will cause spikes.
- Temperture change can affect readings. If you are cold this could increase your reading. Blood pressure is generally higher in winter. Try to warm your body before monitoring.
The new 2014 hypertension guidelines are going to result in a lot less people needing blood pressure medicine. However, to remain medication free and to prevent heart attacks and strokes continue to monitor your blood pressure at home.