On this World Heart Day, it’s daunting to hear that more than a billion people around the world have high blood pressure, or hypertension, including 1 in 2 — 116 million — adults in the United States; only about 1 in 4 have it under control.
These numbers may be news to many, but most of us know the serious health damage that uncontrolled high blood pressure can cause: heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, heart failure, dementia, and serious complications during and after pregnancy.
What can you do to protect yourself and your family from these preventable health conditions? Although eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and taking medications as prescribed may prevent or control high blood pressure, how do you know these measures are working for you?
Studies show that the best way to know for sure is for you to self-measure your blood pressure every day and share your readings with your healthcare team. Regularly monitoring your blood pressure will help you identify the effects of activities, stress, sleep, medications, and other factors, literally putting blood pressure control in your hands.
Steps to better heart health
How do you get started self-measuring your blood pressure? Let’s break it down to a few easy steps.
Start by discussing your plan to self-monitor your blood pressure with your healthcare team and set your goal for a healthy range of readings. Ask for help in selecting a home blood pressure monitor, including one with the cuff size that’s right for you.
Your insurance company may cover the monitor at low or no cost. Your healthcare team can help you find out.
When checking your blood pressure, properly preparing and positioning yourself are important for getting accurate readings. Before you get started, empty your bladder, turn off your phone and TV, and rest quietly in a chair (with your back supported and feet flat on the floor) for five minutes.
Get in the habit of taking your readings at the same time each day, and keep a log of your readings to share with your healthcare team. Ask if they have any recommendations for you. Gradually adjust your exercise, diet (especially your salt intake), and other factors your healthcare team may recommend.
Finally, remember to take any blood pressure medications as prescribed by your healthcare team.
Soon you’ll understand the ups and downs of your blood pressure, and you’ll be in control!