Heart disease is a silent killer in modern society. According to the CDC, someone dies of congestive heart failure every 36 seconds and has a stroke every 3 minutes. However, many people may not even realize that they’re at risk.
One of the best ways to monitor your heart health is with regular blood pressure checks. Read on to learn more about why they are important and how to get the most out of your blood pressure monitoring.
Why Screening for High Blood Pressure Matters
High blood pressure is a well-known risk factor for heart disease. However, it often presents with no symptoms at all. Many people have it without realizing it: it currently affects half of all Americans. Some risk factors for high blood pressure include:
- Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
- Neglecting a healthy diet
- Having diabetes or kidney disease
- Being overweight or obese
- Smoking cigarettes
It is possible to have high blood pressure without these risk factors. Most doctors recommend checking your blood pressure at least once a year if your reading is normal, or 120/80. However, you will need to be tested more often if your blood pressure is higher than that.
How to Get the Most from Your Reading
There are a few factors that could affect your blood pressure check. For example, many people are nervous when they are in the doctor’s office, leading to high blood pressure. It is so common, that it has a nickname: white coat syndrome. Regular screening at home can help you determine whether it is anxiety or a medical issue. Here are some ways you can also ensure that you have the most accurate reading:
- Avoid eating or drinking a half hour before your reading.
- Empty your bladder before testing.
- Sit in a comfortable chair and keep both feet flat on the ground.
- Place your arm on a table at chest height.
- Ensure the cuff is on your skin, not over clothing, and snug without being too tight.
- Avoid talking while your blood pressure is being measured.
- Take a deep breath and slowly let it out before your reading.
If you find that testing your blood pressure makes you anxious, below are the steps to practice box breathing to keep your body calm:
- Slowly exhale through your mouth and get all of the oxygen out of your lungs.
- Inhale deeply while slowly counting to four in your head.
- Hold your breath while counting to four again.
- Slowly exhale all the air out to the count of four.
Concentrating on your breathing can help lower anxiety, which will ensure a more accurate reading.
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