Blood Pressure Monitoring at home
High blood pressure is a sneaky ailment. The condition has no symptoms that you can see or feel. Having your blood pressure checked regularly is the only way to know if it is high. Studies indicate that home blood pressure monitoring has been shown to improve blood pressure control and thereby reduce the risk of cardiovascular events.
What is blood pressure?
Every cell in the body needs a constant supply of blood to bring in oxygen and nutrients and to remove waste products. The force that keeps blood moving comes from the heart, but a complex system of nerve signals, hormones, and other elements regulates the blood flow to each organ by widening or constricting small muscular blood vessels called arterioles, much like a faucet controls the flow of water. Blood pressure thus depends on a number of factors, including how much blood is flowing through the arteries, the rate of blood flow, and the resiliency of the arteries' walls.
The benefits of monitoring at home.
If you're trying to lower your blood pressure by dieting or medication, you may be encouraged by frequent evidence that you're succeeding. Some medications require monitoring to minimize side effects. Also, taking blood pressure at home helps distinguish patients who genuinely have high blood pressure from those who have "white coat" hypertension, that is, the artificial heightening of a patient's blood pressure while he or she is in the unfamiliar environment of a doctor's office or hospital. If white-coat hypertension is suspected, home monitoring is especially important in order to avoid unnecessary drug treatments.
What's it all about?
When a blood-pressure cuff is placed around a patient's arm and inflated, circulation in the artery is temporarily blocked. Then, air is let out of the cuff and the sounds of rushing blood inside the artery are monitored with a stethoscope. When the first sound is heard, the blood pressure gauge is checked for the systolic, or top, number. This is the pumping pressure. When the sounds disappear, there's the diastolic pressure, or lower number. This is the pressure in the arteries when the heart relaxes between beats. Both numbers are important. The higher the number, the harder it is for the blood to flow. A reading above 140/90 indicates hypertension or high blood pressure. It is a sign the heart is working too hard to get blood through the circulatory system because of narrow and/or inflexible arteries.
The good news, experts say, is you can take control of your life where your blood pressure is concerned. There are several lifestyle check points to keep in mind: not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, limiting salt intake, and minimizing your alcohol consumption. Keeping the stress down in your life will work wonders in keeping your blood pressure under control. Relaxation exercises, meditation, and stress management tapes play a helpful role in anyone's life.
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