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Thursday, 6 August 2020

Health Gadget

Boots Blood Pressure Monitor
Recently, I went to Leeds Infirmary for medical tests: some of my cousins have been diagnosed with a serious, intermittent heart arrhythmia of hereditary origin and I need checks to see whether it is in my line of the family. There is a further test to come, so other than to say all looks well so far I won’t write about that now.

However, during the tests my blood pressure was measured at 189/87 millimetres of mercury, with a pulse rate of 83. The diastolic reading of 87 is not too bad, but, bluntly, a systolic reading of 189 is extremely high. It is classed as Stage 3 hypertension, a potential medical emergency!

In my defence, I should say that the measurement was taken about five minutes after a brisk fifteen-minute walk uphill from the railway station followed by a climb up five floors of stairs, that it had gone down slightly after half an hour, that I was typically anxious about what was about to happen and that I was uncomfortable in a coronavirus face mask, but really, I thought it best to respond to the letter from the G.P. I had been ignoring for a month and go for a routine blood pressure test.

That reading was a bit better: at first 167/83 and then, as I calmed down, 154/78, with a pulse of 70, which the practice nurse said was still classed as hypertension, but not at a level that would normally be treated with drugs. The diastolic 78 was, in fact, normal. I wasn’t just relieved, I was elated.

But, I should not have high blood pressure. I am active, vegetarian, have a below average body mass index, don’t smoke and don’t drink excessively, so why is it elevated? Could that also be hereditary? My mother used to be on what (in polite company) she called “wind and water pills”. Or am I, as some would say I always have been, of a nervous disposition? 

The nurse said it might be worth getting a home blood pressure monitor, so for £20 from Boots I bought the one pictured. As the cuff and instructions show, it is a rebadged early model of the Omron monitor they have in the surgery.

It has been well worth it. At one time, doctors would not have let you anywhere near a gadget like this so as not to “worry the patient”. My readings are coming out even better at around 142/77, and just out of bed first thing in the morning I managed 124/71 with a pulse rate of 56. Phew! That’s absolutely in the normal range.

Except, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association have now changed their definition of normal from below 140/90 to under 120/80 (see source article). Well, they can just piss off.

Mrs D., by the way, is gloating over her reading of 112/64 with a pulse rate of 59. I know it’s not a competition, but that makes it feel like it is, one I can never win.

39 comments:

  1. Laughing at the 'competition' in your house for best BP.

    I've always disliked the bum's rush that many doctor's office practice--rushing one in the door and immediately taking your BP. Bound to be elevated. And some people have "white coat" syndrome where simply the idea of seeing a doctor elevates their BP. I've had a BP monitor like yours for some years and usually take my BP at least once a week at different times of the day, then I keep the results on my mobile. When I see my doctor, I provide her the numbers over the longer period which is a far better measure of BP--as you are finding--than a single check at a visit. Not that it is a competition, but last week mine was 101/66 65p. :)

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    1. Impressive! I'm not a doctor but would say you're definitely O.K. with that score. Absolutely right about raised b.p. due to clinic anxiety. Sometimes I suspect they just want to put people on drugs to meet their targets, or to extract money from you in some countries.

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  2. My doctor told me to buy one too, to monitor my BP during the pandemic when office visits are not being held. He mentioned that exact model too. I haven't bought one yet, but will soon.

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    1. Didn't know you had Boots in Canada. It's fairly basic (e.g. some of the more advanced once detect heart arrhythmia) but I'm happy with it.

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  3. When my reading is a bit high, my doctor has me lie quietly for a while, goes away to do other stuff, then comes back and retests. It's usually calmed down considerably by then. I bless her for taking the time when she's having to see a long list of patients.

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    1. Souonds a caring doctor. Most of them I've seen sit talking with you, and talking is one of the things that leads to high readings.

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  4. This post is quite familier to me. We have a monitor exactly like yours and have gone through several of them over the years. My husband and I both have blood pressure problems. Mine has been running in the 170s recently and my doctor is having me check and record it daily and then see him again in two weeks. It is a frustrating thing to deal with I know. Heart disease can most definitely be inherited. My mother had it rather severely at times. It doesn't help when we worry about it, which of course we do. Hopefully taking your blood pressure at home will help you to get the true readings away from the stress of the medical office. By the way, I would love to have your wife's readings!

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    1. So would I. They're lower than our 20 year-old daughter's. However, my wife's relatives tend towards low b.p. so perhaps it's not good for it to be too low. Hope you can get yours down a bit.

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  5. My neighbour has one of these gadgets as she has various problems - I have often thought of getting one but I went for my cardiovascular annual check up last week and the nurse said that things were alright so don't think I shall get one - I think I would always be checking it.

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    1. I think if one is all right then there's no need. It looks like I'm borderline, so it's probably a good idea to chaeck it now and again, and not at a doctors surgery as people here are pointing out.

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  6. I have had one since I had a heart attack in 2000. Like you at the time I was an active, vegetarian (almost), had a below average body mass index, didn’t smoke and didn’t drink excessively (in fact in those days drank very moderately indeed). Nothing much has altered in the meantime although I eat more white meat and fish now. The consultant at the time when I had 5 stents inserted said that in his (informal) view it was all about stress. In fact it was about the most stressful point in my life. After a couple of years I was taken off all medication (except, of course, the compulsory statin for oldies) and have been perfect ever since. I truly believe that it was stress. I hope that all goes well for you.

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    1. Stress is a terrible thing and I can imagine at certain times in my past I could have been affected as severely as that. I suspect I'm borderline, and therefore OK at the moment so long as I don't start smoking or living on crisps.

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    2. I turned down the statins. Thaere's another thing that under the old guidelines I was OK, and then they revised them. I'm not having them unless I really do need them.

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  7. After the worst 4 months I ever had taking blood pressure tablets and statins it was decided that I had "white coat "syndrome. My blood pressure wasn't coming down and I was being given higher doses.By the end of the 4 months I could hardly walk down the street.My heart rate was all over the place .I'd been sent to hospital twice for e.c.g.'s and by then I was told it was nerves. I stopped taking any tablets straight away and although I had some nasty side effects(heart missing beats) but it took 3 weeks to get "normal" again. My doctor suggested that I bought a blood pressure monitor as he could never get a decent reading and I did buy one. Trust your own judgement. They rush when they do it and make you talk as well( which you shouldn't).

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    1. That's a worrying story - that it wasn't you at all but the pills that were making you ill. All these comments are making me even more glad I got the monitor and know that my b.p. isn't too high.

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  8. Mrs Dunham could play a big part in bringing down your blood pressure. Some more forward looking GP's recommend a daily oil massage - the full body type. After a warm bath or shower, one needs to lie on bath towel or rubber sheet before the massage commences. I prefer coconut oil with Enya playing on the stereo.

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  9. White Coat Syndrome is a real thing... my hospital takes 20 minutes to test mine and it's fascinating to sit and watch the numbers go down.
    Perhaps we should just sit in a quiet room and breathe regularly all day ... boring ourselves to death?

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    1. Isn't it that it should not be high when you're resting? Surely everyone will be in the red zone when they are bouncing on the cross trainer or pedalling uphill on a bicycle, and therefore it is only the resting b.p. that matters. I read somewhere that during exercise some people go over 200.

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  10. Make sure the monitor is at heart height and you are relaxed at every test

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    1. There is quite a good instruction leaflet which says things like that. Just got 132/72 about 10 minutes after a half-hour walk. It seems pretty clear my 189 reading was anxiety. It's incredible it can have such a big effect.

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  11. It's OK to be in competition with Mrs. D. It's just not a race. You do need blood pressure.

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    1. It's possible for it to be too low - fainting and so on.

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  12. I have something similar, but mine straps onto my wrist, and I simply press a button. The best time to take your BP is first thing in the morning; before coffee, full English, etc. Which reminds me; I must check it again some time.

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    1. I see, check your b.p. in the morning to assess whether it's worth the risk of a coffee and full English breakfast! The one I bough is also automatic and inflates, deflates and then gives a reading when Start is pressed. Most of the health web sites say that the wrist monitors aren't as reliable.

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  13. Best take your readings after a half hour meditation period with soothing music...

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    1. That would get it down to about as low as it goes, but is that what we really want to know?

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  14. Having read all the comments, haven't much to say, except my blood monitor is somewhat more expensive. The doctor normally gets to the rightish pressure after three goes. White coats and doctors frighten me of course.

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    1. It's interesting reading others' experiences of something I didn't know much about until it frightened me.

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  15. "White coat" blood pressure spikes are apparently quite common. I've found the advice to breathe slowly in the waiting room to a count of 7/11 (that's inhale 7 counts, exhale 11 counts) does actually bring down my readings. Probably because you're concentrating on counting rather than worrying about your BP.

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    1. I would previously have said that was cheating, but it seems the lower you get it the happier the doctors are. But what do we really need to know, the lowest you can get or the variability throughout the day? And what are the consequences of any variability? They don't seem to bother much about that aspect. Should we?

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  16. Reading through your replies to comments here Tasker you could be sending your blood pressure through the roof as I believe you are now in danger of over thinking it. Just relax and take a few readings and jot them down for future reference if the doctor wants them, or whatever he said, and forget about it.

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    1. Ha! I'll soon get bored with it and find something else to worry about.

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  17. I hope that all your results will be good, Tasker. This is a 'health gadget' that we've had for a number of years, in our case bought from Lloyds Pharmacy. Our GP advised taking readings at different times of the day, three times in one day to get a more balanced picture. Himself has high blood pressure while mine is low. I also have an irregular heartbeat and a displaced heart due to a skeletal deformity. (Am I related to Richard the Third?!!) Sounds a bit one wheel on my barrow, doesn't it? But I am still rolling along

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    1. My garden for a horse? I think, as Rachel says above, the main thing is not to worry too much about any of it and just do what we can to avoid any damage.

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  18. Husband had similar problems and bought a bp monitor. He's mostly okay now but I still beat him!!

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    1. It's not a competition! Seriously, it's easy to worry when the doctor gets a high reading, which makes it go higher and higher at every follow up. Caz.P.'s experiences in her comment above says it all.

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  19. Glad you sound to have it under control! Especially as I have a vested interest and look forward to us all getting together again.
    Take care and keep calm!

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    1. I'm coming to the conclusion I'm simply scared or doctors.

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