St Tridunana’s Medical Practice
How to monitor at home and reduce blood pressure
There is increasing evidence that measuring blood pressure at home is a useful and accurate way to assess blood pressure. Below are a few important tips on the correct procedure for monitoring your blood pressure at home, as well as advice as to how to lower it naturally.
It can be scary being diagnosed with high blood pressure. But, if you understand it and take control of it there is a lot that you can do to lower it and to reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Keeping your blood pressure down is a highly effective way of helping to prevent heart attacks and strokes in later life. Imagine the heating system in a house – the lower the pressure the water is being pumped through the pipes, the longer the pipes will last…
If you smoke, this is much more dangerous with high blood pressure and we strongly urge you to stop. We can help you with this. It seems hard, but people succeed at it all the time and then live longer and healthier lives as a result.
► How to monitor your blood pressure at home
Make sure you have a validated monitor with an appropriate cuff size. Click here for a list of validated monitors from the British Hypertension Society. One of these costs just £15. Once you have the monitor, follow these simple instructions:
Measure from the upper arm
Take your blood pressure whilst seated, with your arm and back supported, legs uncrossed and whilst you are not talking (talking and crossed legs increase blood pressure)
Measure your blood pressure in both arms, and if there is a consistent difference of more than 10mmHg then always use arm with higher reading, and let your doctor know.
Take two readings, at least a minute apart, morning and evening for 7 days recording the lower of the two readings onto a sheet of paper or a computer spreadsheet.
The systolic reading is the upper reading (when your heart beats) and the diastolic reading the lower one (in between beats).
Once you have completed 7 days of measurements, calculate the average of all the readings. Your doctor will want to know the average, and also the range from the lowest to the highest readings you have got.
Monitor for a week every 3 months, or every 4 weeks after a change in your medication dosage.
Home BP monitoring form
►What should my ‘ideal’ blood pressure be?
This varies according to your age and other conditions, and your doctor will discuss with you what your individual ideal ‘target’ should be. But, general ‘targets’ for the average of your readings are
- For people under 80, less than 140 systolic and less than 90 diastolic
- For people over 80, less than 150 systolic and less than 90 diastolic
If you have diabetes, kidney disease or other conditions these ‘targets’ may be lower. If the average of the readings is OK, but you have some very high readings (e.g. more than 180 or more than 110) then let your doctorr or nurse know.
► How to lower Blood Pressure Naturally
The good news is there is a lot you can do to reduce blood pressure naturally. Even if you are on medication, reducing your BP further through lifestyle change will reduce your risk of a future heart attack or stroke. The research is incredibly strong that regular exercise, losing some weight, relaxation exercises and changing what you eat is very beneficial for your blood pressure. One of the many advantages of home BP monitoring is that you can soon start to see the benefits of making these changes!
To help reduce your blood pressure naturally you should look at:
Regular exercise will reduce your blood pressure. It is important to do at least 30 minutes every day, enough to get you slightly out of breath. Brisk walking is fine and or you may prefer other activities to lower blood pressure. It is important this becomes part of daily life.
If you are overweight, even small amounts of weight loss may improve your BP. Work hard on this and also aim to decrease
Salt, sodium and potassium
Eating a low sodium and low salt but potassium rich diet is very important, and brings rapid benefits in reducing BP
Eat no added salt, and eat mostly low salt foods
This means label watching and looking for <300mg salt per 100g of food whenever possible
For simple information on reducing salt click here and boosting potassium click here
Total and saturated fat and red meats (replace with low fat dairy products, fish and poultry)
Sugar and sweet drinks (enjoy small amounts of plain, dark chocolate as your ‘treat’; this actually helps bring BP down!)
Refined carbohydrate (white bread, pasta etc; switch to whole grain ‘brown’ varieties)
Alcohol (except very modest quantities, less than 1-2 drinks daily)
Excessive caffeine (1 or 2 cups of coffee/tea a day are fine)
And increase fruits, vegetables and whole grains in the diet
For more information on your diet and lowering BP see Blood Pressure UK advice
The DASH diet is a diet plan (low salt, high fruit and veg) which has been shown to effectively reduce BP very quickly, irrespective of weight loss, and books (DASH diet book and DASH diet plan) are easily available
} Relaxation exercises and stress reduction
Relaxation exercises and stress reduction have been shown to reduce blood pressure.
15 minutes of meditative slow breathing (reducing your breathing rate to less than 10 breaths per minute) at least 4 times a week produces sustained reductions in BP.
Mindfulness is a form of meditative relaxation which is helpful for a wide range of stress-induced problems, but which also reduces blood pressure and is highly recommended as a healthy daily practice (See the book Mindfulness: a practical guide to finding piece in a frantic world)
For smartphone users, see the Breathe Away High Blood Pressure app
For more information on high BP see NHS information on high BP