May is Hypertension Month – The best way to take BP in Isolation

Over half of Canadians over the age of 60 have hypertension (high blood pressure), and 9 out of 10 of us will likely develop the condition as we grow older. If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, you have likely been prescribed medication to control the condition, and you should be monitoring your blood pressure at home. Studies have shown that people who self-monitor have much better outcomes compared to people that don’t. Determining your real average blood pressure is even more important in isolation, because you won’t be having your regular clinic visit; it will likely be by phone or video conference with your doctor.

Measure at Home Properly

Using a home blood pressure machine regularly is important, but it needs to be done properly, or the results will not be very reliable.

  1. Proper Times of Day – Take your measurements at the “end of your day”. Since blood pressure is a reflection of our stress, mental and physical, most people experience their highest BP variability during the middle of the day. Measure first thing in the morning, before breakfast (before coffee), but after you’ve gone to the bathroom. Measure in the evening, two hours after dinner. What you’ve eaten can affect your BP.
  2. Proper technique – Take measurements when you are calm and relaxed. Devote a full 5 minutes to relaxing before taking your BP. Sit at a table with your feet flat on the floor and your back fully supported in the chair. Your arm should be resting on the table. Do not talk or move during the measurements. Take 2-3 measurements, one minute apart. You will notice that your first measurement will likely be higher. If it is significantly higher, discard it and average the 2nd and 3rd readings.
  3. Proper data collection – the reason you take your BP is to ensure you are at or below the targets your physician has set for you. One reading in isolation isn’t particularly significant, your BP will go up and down periodically. However, the averages and the trends are important, so keep a log and average the data. For the highest quality data, follow step 1, measuring in the morning and the evening for a minimum of 3-5 days (7 days is recommended by Hypertension Canada) Average all systolic and diastolic readings separately. If the first days data is above the average, discard it, and average all the other data together. This is the information your physician needs. Averaging your measurements periodically enable you to see the overall trends. If the data shows your BP is not controlled, your physician or pharmacist will likely adjust your medication(s).
  4. Proper Adherence – there have been reports on social media that people should stop taking their hypertension medications, specifically ACE inhibitors and ARB medications. There is no evidence to suggest stopping your meds and Hypertension Canada supports people continue their current therapies, as prescribed.

Author: Mark Beaton, Sr. Vice President, BIOS Medical

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