If you are reading this then you are one of the millions who are seeking health information online – daily – and that has been made possible by the internet. Patients are taking more interest in their conditions, and as internet technology increasingly helps to inform and educate, so electronic technology is putting increased technical sophistication into the hands of the informed consumer – people like you.
Until recently, the devices available for you to use at home would not likely be more than a set of bathroom scales and a thermometer. Now you can check your blood sugar, test your urine for a variety of substances, do a pregnancy test, keep tabs on your asthma, measure your stress levels and of course measure your BP.
The medical profession is by nature conservative. Add to this that professions have a tendency to mystify many of their functions and resist handing them over to the layman. Doctors are no different – it is not malicious, just cautious and professional. Healthcare professionals tend to be swayed only by ‘evidence’ or ‘reliable proof’ and where health is concerned that is a good thing. But it’s time for the patients to urge doctors to check out the increasing body of evidence that proves that today’s home blood pressure monitors are reliable and help to improve BP control. The Home BP monitor will soon become as ubiquitous and accepted as the bathroom scales.
Why should you take over this responsibility? You probably need convincing as much as the doctors do, so here are ten good reasons:
1) Evidence: Experts are coming round to the idea, thanks to research results that have shown the benefits of people monitoring their own blood pressure. One such benefit is helping to diagnose people who have ‘white coat hypertension’. That is, their blood pressure goes up only when they go to the doctor’s and is normal at other times. Such people risk being diagnosed hypertensive when they are not.
2) Responsibility: High Blood Pressure is a condition whose treatment is greatly influenced by a lifestyle. This means that the hypertensive person has a responsibility to take measures to understand the condition and adjust his or her lifestyle to help to bring his or her blood pressure under control. Taking the measurements at home is a first and necessary step in taking more responsibility for managing your condition.
3) Ease of use: The older blood pressure measuring machines were as complicated to use as their names were difficult to pronounce – sphygmomanometer! Today’s machines are simple, easy to use and give a readout at the press of a button. (It’s also a lot easier to say BP monitor).
4) Affordability: BP monitors are coming down in price. A perfectly good monitor may set you back only $30-40, though if you have money to spare you can get more expensive ones. They are not necessarily better but have more features, like record storage and retrieval.
5) Control: One clinical study has shown that having a blood pressure monitor at home can improve blood pressure control significantly. Knowing what your pressure is on a regular basis acts as a reminder to stick to medication and other adopted measures or to see the doctor – and that helps control.
6) Reassurance: Having hypertension is a worrying situation for some – which in itself can raise stress levels and increase blood pressure. It is reassuring to know that all is well, or that one will know if there is a rise in BP so that it can be swiftly controlled.
7) Motivation: Being able to set targets and to watch the results of lifestyle changes is a great motivator and can spur one to even greater efforts and help with the willpower to maintain the efforts over time.
8) Information: Regular measurements of blood pressure give a detailed picture of the trends of blood pressure behavior over time. This information can be of great help to both the physician and the individual in determining what affects the blood pressure positively or negatively and helps in making more informed treatment decisions.
9) Fewer clinic visits: Often, a visit to the clinic might be to just take a measurement. For some that is a lot of effort to achieve for something that could have been done in the comfort of one’s living room. A home monitor means that though you may need fewer visits to the doctor, when you go you will have more useful information to discuss.
10) Help others: Family members and friends, can benefit from using your best blood pressure monitor for a checkup. Of course they should be managing their BP with their doctor, but if they do not have a monitor, a few tries of yours will show them how easy they are to use and may convince them to get their own.
So, if you have high blood pressure, but not a best blood pressure monitor, ask yourself this question – would you try to manage your weight without a set of scales? I think not. So do yourself a favour and get hold of one now. And, if you are reading this because you know someone who has high blood pressure – well, I hope I’ve given you a good idea for a birthday present.