The five-minute at-home test for heart health

Almost five million Australians live with high blood pressure, many unknowingly, with older Aussies more susceptible to developing the condition. Blood pressure tends to rise as we age as arteries get stiffer and more rigid, causing our heart to pump harder and, therefore, increasing blood pressure.  

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can often have no symptoms or clear markers. So what’s the best way to prevent this diagnosis?

Here’s how you can keep a check on your blood pressure at home.

Invest in a blood pressure monitor
Checking your blood pressure regularly ensures you can monitor changes and take action as early as possible. You can have your blood pressure measured by a doctor, nurse or pharmacist. However, if you need to take your blood pressure often and are unable to get it checked regularly by a health provider, you may wish to buy an at-home blood pressure monitor and do it yourself. Visit your local pharmacy to look at the range available and find a product that best suits you.

Read: Why your blood pressure changes with age

Taking your blood pressure at home
Blood pressure should be taken when you are at rest. Don’t measure your blood pressure if you are feeling uncomfortable, stressed or in pain. It’s best to find a comfortable spot that is free from any distractions, where you can sit and relax for five minutes before taking a reading.

Do not measure your blood pressure within 30 minutes of eating, drinking caffeinated drinks, taking medication, exercising or smoking as these can all raise your blood pressure temporarily. Loose fitting clothes will also help you fit the cuff around your arm easily.

Once you’re ready, follow the instructions that come with your chosen monitor and record your blood pressure at least twice each time, one minute apart. If you’ve been advised to take standing blood pressure readings, you should wait at least two minutes between readings.

Read: Keeping your blood pressure in this range can slow brain ageing

Take your readings under the same conditions and at the same time each day where possible. Keep a record of each measure so you can share it with your doctor. Don’t be tempted to round your readings up or down, as it could affect the treatment you’re prescribed.

How to use a blood pressure monitor
Most blood pressure monitors will give a reading of both systolic and diastolic pressure. To use a blood pressure monitor, you will fit an adjustable cuff around your upper arm (roughly at heart level). The cuff will inflate and stop the blood flow through the artery.

Read: Five ways to lower your blood pressure

As the cuff deflates, blood begins to flow again, and the machine measures the vibration in the arterial wall. This is what we call systolic pressure (the top number in the reading), which shows the amount of pressure in our arteries when the heart muscle contracts. Diastolic pressure (the bottom number in the reading) will be measured once the blood flow is continuous and we are measuring the blood pressure when the heart muscle is between beats.

The World Health Organization defines high blood pressure as a blood pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg or more.

How can taking your blood pressure at home be helpful?
Because blood pressure can constantly change throughout the day, depending on anything from your activities or the body’s position to emotions and time of day, at-home monitoring can help you determine how your lifestyle changes are affecting your blood pressure – recording these changes if required.

Home monitoring and recording of blood pressure readings can also provide your doctor with valuable information to determine how high blood pressure might be affecting your overall health and if any treatment plan is working effectively.

Consult your GP or healthcare practitioner for advice on ways to reduce your risk and better manage your blood pressure.

Eric Chan is head of pharmacy at Blooms The Chemist

Do you suffer from high blood pressure? Have you invested in an at-home monitor? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

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Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

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