Know Your Numbers: The Importance of At-home Blood Pressure Readings for Good Health
You know that a healthy lifestyle includes regular exercise, getting plenty of sleep, and eating a balanced diet. But monitoring your blood pressure is another important health marker that can help you maintain good health day in and day out, and it’s not just for when you visit the clinic.
Here’s how a 24/7 blood pressure monitor like Aktiia can help you take control of your heart health-and even make your time at the doctor more efficient.
Why Regular Blood Pressure Readings Are Important
Your blood pressure measures the force that your heart uses to pump blood around your body.1 The higher your blood pressure, the more at-risk you are of developing serious long-term conditions such as coronary heart disease and stroke.
Routinely monitoring your blood pressure is especially important for people diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure). Keeping tabs on your numbers helps your care providers understand if your treatment is working, and it helps you see how your lifestyle changes support your heart health.
Let’s say your healthcare provider advised you to move more throughout the day, so you commit to going on a daily walk. When you regularly monitor your blood pressure, you’ll be able to see how regular activity affects your readings-which can give you the motivation you need to turn a change into a lifelong habit.
“Regular” is an important term here; there are a lot of factors that can impact your readings, ranging from your stress levels to whether you’ve had caffeine. The occasional reading you receive at a clinic gives your healthcare team a snapshot of your overall health. But for the most accurate results, you’ll want to collect daily readings over several weeks.
What Do Blood Pressure Readings Mean?
When you measure your blood pressure, you get two numbers: systolic and diastolic blood pressure.2
- Systolic blood pressure is the first or top number. It indicates how much pressure your blood exerts against your artery walls when your heart beats.
- Diastolic blood pressure is the second or bottom number. This is the lowest level your pressure reaches when your heart relaxes.
Systolic blood pressure is measured first, followed by diastolic. These readings are measured with the unit mmHG (millimeters of mercury). If your systolic blood pressure is 90 and your diastolic is 60, you’d read it as 90/60 or 90 over 60.
According to Blood Pressure UK, here’s a general guide to what the numbers mean:
|Blood pressure||What it means|
|140/90 or over||You may have high blood pressure (hypertension).|
|120/80 up to 140/90||This is pre-high blood pressure, which means it’s higher than normal and you should make efforts to lower it.|
|90/60 up to 120/80||This is normal, healthy blood pressure.|
|90/60 or lower||You may have low blood pressure, which can make you feel faint or dizzy. It may also indicate a health problem.|
It’s worth noting that blood pressure can vary widely among people based on their age and biological sex. For example, the average normal blood pressure for men between age 60+ is 133/69. For women in that same age group, the average is 139/68.
There are also ranges of normal blood pressure based on different medical associations. For example, the American College of Cardiology defines the blood pressure target for people age 65+ as less than 130/80. However, the European Society of Hypertension targets readings less than 130–139/70–79.
What does all that variability mean for you? Although blood pressure can fall into healthy ranges, there isn’t a single magic number that works for everyone. Work with your healthcare provider to identify a healthy blood pressure target.
How to Take Blood Pressure Readings at Home
There are different types of blood pressure monitors available for home use:
|Monitor Type||How it works|
|Inflatable cuff||These devices are easily found at most pharmacies. They work by inflating to squeeze the arm, then calculating your blood pressure based on your blood flow while the cuff deflates.|
|Finger monitor||These devices measure arterial pressure in your finger. Although there are a range of options on the market, they’re generally considered to be unreliable.|
|Wrist monitor||Aktiia is a 24/7 monitor that you wear on your wrist. It uses special photoplethysmographic (PPG) sensors to estimate your blood pressure whenever you’re still, day or night.|
Most people are familiar with cuff-based devices, but these monitors require some extra planning to use accurately:
- You’ll need to sit properly during the reading: still, back straight, legs and arms uncrossed.
- You’ll also want to avoid taking your readings after drinking caffeinated beverages, exercising, or smoking.
- It’s also important to measure around your upper arm to find the right cuff size.
- Measure around the same time daily, and take multiple readings each time at different times of day. Write down the results to share with your doctor.
That’s a lot of planning. Aktiia is different; as a lightweight bracelet you can wear 24/7, Aktiia makes it easy to take multiple readings at different times of the day. That’s because Aktiia automatically detects the optimal time to measure your blood pressure and logs your data throughout the day and night. (No special posture or manually logging your numbers required.)
You can review everything in the app, and even share your data with your doctor so you can discuss your readings together. This information sets you up for success by showing you whether you experience a drop in blood pressure while you sleep, how your medications affect your blood pressure, the impact of stress on your heart health, and more.
If you are worried about your blood pressure measurements, you should consult your doctor who will advise on how best to manage your blood pressure day-to-day.
How to Address High Blood Pressure
One high blood pressure reading isn’t necessarily cause for alarm; it may be a sign that you’re stressed, slept poorly, or had too much caffeine before your reading. However, consistently high blood pressure trends are a sign that it’s time to take action.
Your doctor may prescribe medication if you have high blood pressure. There are different types of hypertension medications; some work by relaxing your blood vessels, while others make your heart beat more slowly and with less force. Your doctor will help you determine which medication is right for you.3
You can also support your heart health with lifestyle changes, such as exercising regularly, cutting back on salt and refined sugars, and quitting smoking. Check out these tips to reduce blood pressure for more details.
Regular blood pressure readings are essential for maintaining good health, especially if you have borderline high blood pressure or have been diagnosed with hypertension. While cuff-based devices are easy to find, they’re not necessarily easy to use. With Aktiia, you’ll have an easy-to-use way to monitor your blood pressure throughout the day-without having to lift a finger. That way, you can focus on what really matters: living your life and taking control of your health.Disclaimer: If you are concerned about your blood pressure, it is best to speak to your doctor. They can advise on the best way to manage your blood pressure.
Disclaimer: If you are concerned about your blood pressure, it is best to speak to your doctor. They can advise on the best way to manage your blood pressure.
What is blood pressure?, December, 2022 – https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/lifestyle/what-is-blood-pressure
What do the numbers mean?, 2021 – https://www.bloodpressureuk.org/understanding-your-blood-pressure-what-do-the-numbers-mean
High blood pressure (hypertension), 23 October, 2019 – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/high-blood-pressure-hypertension/treatment