A blood pressure reading is a common part of any visit to your doctor, but measuring your blood pressure at home could help you learn even more about your health.
Recently updated guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA) and American College of Cardiology Task Force have revised the definition of hypertension for the first time in 14 years, meaning that millions more adults will be considered at high risk for heart attack, heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems. While the rate of hypertension among women under 45 is expected to double, the rate for men under 45 is expected to triple. Especially as we grow older, it’s increasingly important to understand and track what’s normal for our own bodies given our age, weight, diet, and other genetic factors.
According to the Dr. Paul Whelton, one of the main authors of the new guidelines, the revisions are not intended to expand the pool of Americans who receive medication for high blood pressure, but instead to raise awareness of the associated risks and to encourage a proactive approach to individual wellness.
“We want to be straight with people — if you already have a doubling of risk, you need to know about it. It doesn’t mean you need medication, but it’s a yellow light that you need to be lowering your blood pressure, mainly with non-drug approaches.”
Dr. Paul K. Whelton
So what’s your heart telling you, exactly? While there is a long list of reasons to account for fluctuations in blood pressure, having an average reading that consistently falls in the elevated blood pressure or stage 1 high blood pressure range should be taken as a sign that purposeful lifestyle changes are in order.
If you’re curious about your own blood pressure data, it’s quick and easy to start taking measurements throughout the day. Here’s why it’s better to start sooner rather than later:
1. Hypertension can cause real damage if left untreated.
Not only is hypertension a risk factor for stroke, heart attack, and heart failure, a heart that’s not pumping blood effectively can harm other organs such as your brain and kidneys. Taking care of your heart helps your entire body stay healthy.
2. Hypertension doesn’t always have noticeable symptoms.
According to the Mayo Clinic, most people with high blood pressure have no signs or symptoms, even if blood pressure readings reach dangerously high levels. Because measurements can vary throughout the day, at-home readings on both arms can help create a more complete picture of someone’s health.
3. When detected in earlier phases, treatment is possible.
If your blood pressure reaches the elevated level, it’s often possible to manage the condition just by making a few simple changes in your day-to-day life.
When your heart has something to say — take notice. Better choices about food, stress, and physical activity can make a real impact in the long run.