Monitoring BP from home

There are several causes of high blood pressure or hypertension. Heredity is one of them, along with poor dietary habits, lack of exercise, excessive smoking or alcohol consumption, obesity, and stress; some women are susceptible to it during pregnancy.

Though it has no symptoms, hypertension can lead to strokes and heart disease, if it isn’t diagnosed and treated in time. However, blood pressure can easily be monitored at home, so that you can take measures to control it in time. An important tool for this is a blood-pressure (BP) monitor that you can use at home.

What is blood pressure?

It is the force of blood against the walls of your arteries, as the heart pumps blood. It is measured in mm Hg (millimeters of mercury). Blood pressure readings consist of two numbers: the higher number, which is measured first, is the systolic pressure, which is when your heart pumps blood.

The lower number is the diastolic pressure, which is when the heart is at rest between beats. Normal blood pressure is around 120/80 Hg, but it can vary in people according to age and physical condition. A reading of 140/90 or above indicates high blood pressure.

To measure blood pressure, a cuff is wrapped around the upper arm, an inch or so above the elbow, at the heart level. This is inflated and then deflated, to hear the sound of rushing blood in the arteries. You listen to this with a stethoscope - the first sound is that of the heart pumping blood and registers on the BP monitor as the number for systolic pressure; the absence of this sound registers as the number for diastolic pressure.

Monitoring blood pressure at home

Your doctor may advise you to monitor your BP at home if you already have hypertension or pre-hypertension, or any other disease that could result in this condition. If you’re trying to control your BP, home monitoring can help you see how far you’re succeeding in your endeavour, and whether you need to take further measures.

Some people also like to take control of their BP before the danger signals appear, so that prevention can preclude cure. Moreover, it is believed that BP readings taken in the clinic or hospital are higher than normal for some people, who suffer from a syndrome called ‘white coat hypertension’ - their blood pressure increases a little due to the anxiety generated by being in a doctor’s clinic.

In such situations, it is helpful to buy a BP monitor and learn how to use it with help from your doctor.