I had not long returned from a regular blood pressure check with my doctor. I was doing the maintenance checks on the car before driving my daughter back to university. “You check the car before every trip, but you do not check your own blood pressure. You ought to” she said. Taking our own BP readings is as easy and convenient these days as checking the tyre pressures on the car, and no less important.
A few minutes Internet research revealed a wide range of automatic blood pressure monitors that are easily available online or in store at modest prices. I bought one on my next visit to the shopping mall. That turned out to be a good buy, because not only was the model I purchased on offer, but more importantly, it changed for the better the way in which my doctor manages my condition.
My doctor uses a sphygmomanometer, which accurately measures my systolic and diastolic pressures but it is a cumbersome piece of equipment designed for use in hospitals and doctors’ offices. Whilst the readings taken from it are accurate, they are often unreliable because many people are nervous when they visit their doctor or go to hospital causing their blood pressures to be elevated. It is known as “white coat syndrome”, and I suffer from it.
Furthermore, because of the nature of the appointments system used in many doctors’ offices, there is no consistency in the time of day when they take your readings. As our blood pressure changes during the day readings taken on different days, and at different times, produce different results. That means a clinical judgment based on an individual reading taken at my regular check-up could be unreliable.
It suited me best to use my monitor to take my BP readings and pulse first thing in the morning after getting up, and before eating any food. Doing it at this time also produces the most reliable results. I did this every day for a month leading up to my next check-up and recorded the results. I entered the results in a spreadsheet and used the analytical tool to produce line graphs for my systolic and diastolic pressures and pulse rate. I also produced averages for each measurement. I took a print out of the results with me to my appointment.
I showed the print out to my doctor. Instead of relying on a single measurement on which to base his judgement, he had comprehensive data for a whole month. There was no distortion caused by me being nervous. He was able to see from the data that although my readings may have been elevated on some days, the overall picture was that they were within the normal BP range.
At my doctor’s request, I now monitor my blood pressure during the two weeks leading up to each routine six-monthly check-up. I e-mail the results to him so that he may review them in advance of the appointment. I monitor my BP over a period of seven days each month between check-ups. This enables me to confirm that my readings are still within the normal range or to take action to deal with any unexpected results.
Your doctor should interpret your blood pressure measurements, as they will be familiar with your medical history. By regularly monitoring and recording your own readings for your physician to interpret, they can make a better-informed judgement on how to lower your high blood pressure.