Keeping an eye on our blood pressure is a crucial step in maintaining heart health. Pharmacies and grocery stores now make it even more convenient, allowing us to check our blood pressure while running errands and waiting to pick up prescriptions. For those with heart disease or diabetes, it’s likely the doctor has prescribed regular, ongoing blood pressure readings with a blood pressure monitor at home. But, are the readings from a home blood pressure monitor accurate? And to take it a step further, what do the numbers actually mean?
Harvard Health tells us that the systolic pressure (the top number) measures artery pressure as the heart contracts, while the diastolic pressure (bottom number) measures the pressure between heartbeats. They also provide the following blood pressure guidelines as documented in the Journal of the American Medical Association:
- Adults age 60 and above with high blood pressure should strive for a target blood pressure below 150/90
- Adults age 30 to 59 with high blood pressure should strive for a target blood pressure below 140/90
- Adults with either chronic kidney disease or diabetes should strive for a target blood pressure below 140/90
To make sure your or your senior loved one’s blood pressure readings are accurate, Caregivers by WholeCare offers the following suggestions:
- Be sure to test your blood pressure at the same time every day.
- Take several readings, one minute apart, and note all of the results for best accuracy.
- Sit with the back straight and supported, with feet flat on the floor, since crossing the legs can have a negative effect on the results. Make sure the arm is placed on a flat surface, with the upper arm at the level of the heart.
- Ensure that the middle part of the cuff is directly over the brachial artery. To find the brachial artery, trace an imaginary line from the outside of the thumb, up the outer arm to the bend in the elbow. Right in the bend of the elbow is the brachial artery.
- There should be no smoking, exercise or caffeinated beverages at least 30 minutes prior to the reading.
- It’s important to remain still and silent during the reading.
- Note that having a full bladder can affect the systolic pressure reading.
A helpful blood pressure monitor buying guide is available from Consumer Reports, to assist in finding the best home blood pressure monitor.
If you have a senior loved one who could benefit from assistance with maintaining healthy blood pressure, Caregivers by WholeCare’s in-home personal care services can help in a number of ways – through planning and preparing heart-healthy meals, picking up prescriptions and ensuring medications are taken as prescribed, helping with adhering to an exercise program, and more. To learn more, you can reach our Nashville home care experts any time at 615-298-9201.