There is a reason why your doctor takes your blood pressure almost every time you walk into his office: it's a quick and painless way to take a snapshot of your heart health. But that does not mean that's the best way.
Indeed, the blood pressure can change depending on various factors including pain, temperature, physical exertion and even doctor visits.
So, how do you avoid these potentially false positives and false negatives? Do DIY tests.
If you can not imagine sitting at your kitchen table manually inflating a blood pressure cuff, do not worry. The latest generation of over the counter monitors is wireless, digital and easier to use than ever before. Here's what you need to know before buying one.
How do wireless sphygmomanometers work?
Every time your heart beats, blood circulates in your circulatory system, putting pressure on the walls of your blood vessels. Tensiometers generally measure the strength of this pressure in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) using a blood pressure monitor.
A blood pressure monitor inflates a rubber sleeve that wraps around your finger, wrist or arm until the blood can no longer circulate in the brachial or radial artery. When the air is slowly released from the cuff, the blood begins to flow back into the artery, creating a pounding sound that can be detected with the help of a stethoscope or a stethoscope. an algorithm.
Your systolic blood pressure is the reading of the pressure noted when this pounding sound starts for the first time. Your diastolic blood pressure occurs when it stops.
Wireless digital sphygmomanometers display your results on the main unit, in an associated smartphone app – where you can view graphs and trends and sync data with additional applications such as Apple Health – or both.
The measurement is written as two numbers. The top is your systolic blood pressure (the pressure when your heart beats). The bottom is your diastolic blood pressure (the pressure between the beats). A healthy blood pressure range is 90/60 to 120/80 mmHg.
Who are the wireless sphygmomanometers intended for?
The American Heart Association (AHA) and other health organizations recommend that people with high blood pressure measure it at home, a practice known as blood pressure monitoring measured by self or home blood pressure monitoring (LMWH).
Blood pressure rises and falls naturally throughout the day, but chronically high readings (at least 130/80 mmHg) may indicate that your heart is tense and working too much, a condition known as hypertension. High blood pressure often has no obvious signs or symptoms. That's why it's called the "silent killer". Over time, it can increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure and kidney failure.
SMBPs can help eliminate "white coat hypertension", in which a person's blood pressure is elevated in the doctor's office but normal in everyday life, and masked hypertension, in which a person's blood pressure is normal in the doctor's office but high in everyday life.
"Taking blood pressure as part of every routine office visit is, at best, not necessary and, in the worst case, can lead to erroneous conclusions about the condition of the patient." a person's hypertension, "states cardiologist Erica S. Spatz, MD, clinical investigator at Yale's Center for Results Research and Evaluation at New Haven Health Hospital. "Ideally, we would use home blood pressure readings to screen for and monitor hypertension, which are more indicative of the person's actual blood pressure status and better associated with the outcome of interest to us." know about heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. "
It can also inspire a greater sense of responsibility for your health and better control of your situation. Research shows that hypertensive adults who monitor their blood pressure at home (with or without extra help) are more likely to lower their reading compared to usual care.
But it is not necessary to have hypertension to benefit from wireless blood pressure monitors. They can also detect hypotension or chronic hypotension (less than 90/60 mmHg, although this may vary from one person to another). In some people, hypotension can not cause any problem. In other cases, it may mean that something more serious, such as heart failure or a serious infection, occurs, especially if accompanied by symptoms such as dizziness, fainting, or nausea. .
"In the elderly or frail, we are particularly concerned about falls," Spatz said. "It is therefore important to evaluate low blood pressure, especially standing up."
Whether you have low or high blood pressure, PMS monitoring can help you and your doctor identify problems early and determine if medications or lifestyle interventions are working, while reducing visits.
What if my blood pressure is not high or low?
People who are otherwise healthy but at increased risk of developing hypertension and cardiovascular disease, such as people with a family history of high blood pressure or women with a history of preeclampsia during pregnancy, may also benefit from SMBP testing. "Monitoring home blood pressure from time to time can quickly detect high blood pressure, giving high-risk people the return of information they need to prevent the onset of blood pressure." hypertension, "said Spatz.
Totally healthy? Occasional SMBP may still be useful. "Knowing how your blood pressure responds to periods of stress or lack of sleep can provide you with important connections between body and mind and can motivate you to take a more holistic approach to your cardiovascular health," Spatz says. .
Just a warning: Some people are unable to get accurate blood pressure reading from these devices due to illness, birth defects, or disorders such as irregular heartbeat. Therefore, ask your doctor if SMBP is right for you.
What to look for in a wireless blood pressure monitor
Wireless sphygmomanometers are widely available without a prescription, but it pays to be selective.
The AHA only recommends the use of oscillometric wrist devices for the upper arm that have successfully passed validation protocols, according to a 2019 scientific statement published in the medical journal Hypertension. (Oscillometric devices automatically detect and analyze pulse waves as opposed to a person listening with a stethoscope.)
Wrist monitors, while convenient, are not recommended. Studies show that they are more likely to produce inaccurate readings, both because they are very sensitive to the body's position (which causes them to misuse them) and because the arteries of the wrist tend to be narrower and shallower under the skin.
The websites of the British and Irish Hypertension Society and the Dabl Educational Trust maintain a list of validated blood pressure monitors, including wireless oscillometric arm cuff devices. You can also bring your device to your doctor's office and compare its readings to those taken by your doctor. (If you buy a monitor for a senior, a pregnant woman or a child, make sure that it is also validated for that specific use.)
After accuracy, the size of the cuff is of utmost importance. Headlines that are too big or too small can give inaccurate results. The AHA recommends the following sizing guidelines, but you can also call a doctor or pharmacist.
Armband size guide
Tower of arms
Usual size of the armband
The price usually ranges between $ 30 and $ 100, although a higher price does not necessarily mean higher quality. If you're willing to spend a little extra bells and whistles (your insurance can help you with the costs), keep an eye on these useful features:
- An automatic monitor. Look for a device that allows you to initiate a reading at the touch of a button.
- Customizable readings. Some devices take three consecutive readings and automatically calculate the average, according to AHA recommendations.
- A digital reading. If it is displayed on the device or in an associated application, the measurement should be clear and easy to read.
- Partabilité. If you're managing an existing condition, the devices that store your readings, as well as the dates and times they were taken, and allow you to easily export or share them with your doctor are the best.
How to use a wireless blood pressure monitor
"Checking your blood pressure at home should not be tedious," says Spatz. "I recommend that patients with stable hypertension take out the armband the week before their appointment and measure twice daily so that we can use these measures to guide our management, unless we make active changes to the treatment plan. , patients can cuff until the next visit. "
You should talk to your doctor about the routine that is best for you, but in general, here are some good practices:
- Measure your blood pressure twice a day. Ideally at the same time each day. Take the first step in the morning after using the toilet, but before eating, exercising, drinking caffeine or taking medication. Take the second measurement before dinner or at least 30 minutes after consuming food, alcohol, caffeine or tobacco. Again, use the toilet first, because a full bladder can slightly raise your blood pressure.
- To put yourself at ease. You must be seated in a chair with your back supported, your legs uncrossed and your feet flat on the floor.
- Position your arm properly. Always use the same arm to take your blood pressure (if one arm tends to produce a higher reading, use that one). Place it on a flat surface, such as a table, with the top of your arm at the heart level (support it with a pillow if it is too low). The cuff should be snug, but not tight, around the bare skin of your upper arm, just above the bend of the elbow.
- Sit quietly. Take five minutes to calm down and relax in this position. Try not to think of something stressful.
- Take two to three readings. Keep your body in the same position and try not to talk while your device is taking a reading. If your device does not automatically record your result, write it down with the time. Leave the cuff in place deflated, wait one to two minutes, then take another reading. Repeat this process a third time, then average the results. It is normal for your blood pressure to be about five points lower at home compared to the doctor's office.
When to see a doctor about your blood pressure
"Blood pressure below 120/80 mmHg is ideal," says Spatz. But your doctor will discuss with you the appropriate number.
If you only get one reading higher or lower than this number, do not worry. Take additional readings following the instructions above.
If your measurements suddenly exceed 180/120 mm Hg, the AHA recommends that you wait five minutes and perform a new test. If your blood pressure is still extremely high, contact your doctor immediately.
If your blood pressure remains above 180/20 mmHg and you have symptoms such as chest pain, back pain, shortness of breath, or vision changes, call 911.
If your blood pressure is below normal and you experience dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea or anything else, contact your doctor.
"While home blood pressure monitoring can be done independently with a few simple guidelines on what is normal, it's still important to have a doctor or a trusted nurse to help you." interpret the readings, "says Spatz. "The blood pressure varies tremendously during the day and there may be spikes or troughs in the blood pressure that may be clinically significant or not."
Note: The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical or health advice. Always consult a doctor or other qualified health professional for any questions regarding a health problem or health goals.