Want to Feel Empowered in your Own Health? Here’s a Start.

Want to feel empowered in your own health? You’ve likely said yes or you wouldn’t be reading this! So, here’s a start.

Start by knowing and being aware of your blood pressure. It is common knowledge that blood pressure is an important factor in overall health, however, it wasn’t until nursing school when I really became aware of how important blood pressure control is to prevent health concerns like stroke (oxygen deficit to the brain), heart disease, kidney damage, etc. When speaking about blood pressure control, the term usually refers to preventing or reversing high blood pressure. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can occur from many different causes, like excess stress, a diet high in sodium, genetic predispositions, and/or medication side-effects, to name a few. When you visit your primary care provider for your yearly physical exam, or any time you are medically checked, your blood pressure will be taken as one of the basic vital signs to asses your physical state in that moment.

Rather than consistently relying on health care professionals to gain insight into your own health, you can feel empowered to take your health into your own hands by knowing how to manage blood pressure in your everyday environment.

But, what if you could check your blood pressure whenever you wanted without an appointment? The good news is that you can. Rather than consistently relying on health care professionals to gain insight into your own health, you can feel empowered to take your health into your own hands by knowing how to manage blood pressure in your everyday environment. Feeling empowered in your health trajectory is so important in the light of managing blood pressure to prevent further health concerns in the future.

The following information on how you can manage your blood pressure at home or in your community is not medical advice, rather these are basic resources you can use to help track and manage your blood pressure outside a clinical setting. Please refer to your doctor for any questions or concerns regarding your blood pressure.

Blood Pressure Management Resources:

In Your Community: Many drug stores offer FREE Blood Pressure Screenings.

Drug stores, like Bartell Drugs, CVS, etc. have “self-serve” blood pressure stations, usually adjacent to the pharmacy. At these stations, you can expect to sit in a seat, place both feet on the ground, and place one arm in a blood pressure inflating cuff, follow the written directions (simply ask a pharmacist working there for assistance if needed), and receive your blood pressure reading within one or two minutes. So simple and it’s free!

At Home: There are many automatic blood pressure screening machines for at-home use today. Since these can be an extra expense, these are best to invest in if you have ongoing high blood pressure and are making lifestyle changes or taking medication to lower your blood pressure. This method enables you to personally see how your changes and treatments are affecting your blood pressure. It is important to remember that most of these lifestyle changes or treatments can take time to be effective and require persistence, however they are worth the effort to improve your health and quality of life.

Another way to make this investment worthwhile for at-home blood pressure management is getting a group together in your community to share the machine and its cost. Simply use an alcohol or antibacterial wipe to clean between uses.

Click here to see an example of a self monitored blood pressure (SMBP) machine for at-home use (not endorsed or sponsored, just providing a sample!).

Now what?

Once you have checked your blood pressure in your community or at home, use the chart below to help determine if you have a low, normal, or elevated blood pressure. For any concerns regarding your blood pressure, especially blood pressures that are elevated, it is recommended to make an appointment with your primary care provider for further assessment, especially if you have symptoms such as a headache or vomiting (1).

Image retrieved from Harvard Health Publishing

High blood pressure is one of the most common health concerns in Americans, yet many people do not know they have it. The sooner high blood pressure is recognized, the sooner lifestyle changes and/or treatment can be initiated to prevent future health concerns (2). It is important to note that although treatment is available, research shows that the most effective therapy (whether lifestyle, medication, or both) have shown to be the most effective if the patient is motivated to make the recommended changes (3). What better way to be motivated than to feel empowered in managing one’s own health?

For more information related to reducing sodium intake for blood pressure control, visit the following article: “Are Low Sodium Products Good For you?”.

Written by Alma Akras, RN

References:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. High Blood Pressure Signs and Symptoms.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: High Blood Pressure
  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources. JNC 7 Express. The Seventh Report of the Joint NationalCommittee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure.

This information is not medical advice, please consult with your medical provider for medical guidelines and recommendations.