Looking for a Valentine’s Day gift to really show someone you love how much you care? Here’s a great idea: A home blood pressure monitor!
If you think that’s an odd suggestion, hear us out. February is Heart Health Month, the perfect time for you and your loved ones to focus on cardiovascular health, yours and theirs. One smart way to do that is to monitor your blood pressure on a regular basis. And here’s why: About 9 out of 10 Americans will develop high blood pressure – also known as hypertension – at some point during their lifetime. High blood pressure is the single biggest cause of early death, and also contributes to cardiovascular diseases and strokes. The good news is that hypertension can be managed and treated if you know you have it. Usually, hypertension has no symptoms, so the best way to know if you have it is to get your blood pressure measured. Your doctor will generally do that when you have routine checkups. But do you know what your blood pressure is? Or what the numbers mean? You certainly should, and if you are at high risk, you should find a way to monitor your blood pressure more frequently.
What are the risk factors for hypertension? Like any other health condition, risk can vary by age, medical history, and family history. Race and ethnicity can also be a factor – Black people develop high blood pressure younger and more frequently than whites. Lifestyle factors and health behaviors such as lack of exercise or eating a diet high in sodium and low in potassium can also impact your likelihood of developing high blood pressure. The CDC offers a good rundown on risk factors for hypertension / high blood pressure. We also have a prior post on checking your blood pressure that includes information about risk factors, information about what the blood pressure numbers mean, and what numbers constitute a healthy or unhealthy range.
How to check your BP with a home blood pressure monitor
If you have health monitor apps on your smartphone or wearable devices, you might be using those to track your blood pressure, but the jury is still out about their accuracy for taking a reading – in fact, most don’t claim to. (See: Wearables, Smartphones and Apps – Do they Really Measure Blood Pressure?)
You can buy blood pressure home monitor kits that include the arm cuff and a reading device relatively inexpensively. Here are a few reputable reviews of monitors:
- Consumer Reports – Best Home Blood Pressure Monitors of 2021
- The New York Times / Wirecutter – The Best Blood Pressure Monitors for Home Use
- SafeWise: 2022 Best Blood Pressure Monitors Buyers Guide
This short video from the American Heart Association shows how easy it is to use one. Or see their written guidelines, which include info about the numbers. They also offer a few related guides: Don’t just get your BP taken; make sure it’s taken the right way and Understanding Blood Pressure Readings.