When you are first diagnosed with high blood pressure, it’s really scary and you end up checking your blood pressure all.the.time. or just randomly with no specific reason or goal in mind.
First, let me say that you are on the right track and you are going to be ok. You are taking steps to learn more about blood pressure and what you can do about it. Which is more than most people… trust me.
I can’t tell you how many people I see in the hospital that are on blood pressure medication that don’t even own a blood pressure monitor, so give yourself some credit.
There is a downside to measuring your blood pressure all the time. Stress, worry, anxiety… any of these sound familiar?
In this post, I’m going to show you how to stop looking at individual readings and to take your average of your blood pressure readings. And then stop measuring it. Unless your doctor has instructed you to, of course... I’ll give you some reasons at the end for you to recheck your average.
There is really no benefit of measuring it everyday because damage from high blood pressure occurs over a long period of time.
However, there is a benefit of knowing what your numbers are, making changes, and then seeing if those changes have made a difference… over several weeks or months.
Because real change takes time.
Your blood pressure fluctuates based on:
- How stressful your environment is
- What you eat
- How you feel
- How much sleep you’ve had
- How hydrated you are
- How active you are
- Which arm you measure
- What position your arm is in
- If you're in a lot of pain
- Hormone levels
- And even what season of the year it is!!
I have so many people ask me about one high reading of their blood pressure OR one low reading.
One high reading can cause a lot of stress on you and not knowing what to do about it can cause even more stress (I’m going to write another post on that so stay tuned).
Here's some good news, the average of your blood pressure over time is what is most important, not just one reading.
And treatment of that average is how medications are added, increased, stopped, or lowered. If medications were added based on one high reading then your blood pressure might go too low, because that wasn't an accurate representation of what your blood pressure is like most of the time.
It’s important to know where you are right now with your blood pressure by:
Calculating your average
Reviewing your trend
Follow the steps below to evaluate what your current average is and how your numbers are trending.
1. How to calculate your average blood pressure
Your blood pressure is dynamic and changes based on a lot of factors like how stressed you are, whether you had a high sodium or high carb dinner like pizza, spaghetti or any meal at a restaurant, or your activity level. At any given time, ONE reading is NOT important (I will talk about high readings another time).
It is multiple readings and an average of those readings that really tell your doctor how you are doing.
If you are already measuring and recording your blood pressure, I want you to take a weekly average of your blood pressure readings (skip to instructions below).
If you are currently NOT measuring and recording your blood pressure, go ahead and do that this week. Pick a time each day that you can measure your blood pressure at the same time each day for 5-7 days (even just 3 days will work).
I recommend to test once in the morning and once at night during the same environment, same conditions, same arm, same time, same table, same chair, etc. You want to remove the most amount of variables as possible.
1.Take ALL the readings (including if you had a high reading then tested again or test multiple times a day) from the past 5-7 days
2. Add up all of the top numbers (systolic blood pressure) and divide by the total number of measurements that you recorded
3. Add up all of the bottom numbers (diastolic blood pressure) and divide by the total number of measurements that you recorded
4. Then put the average systolic over the average diastolic and now you have your average weekly blood pressure
Example: If you are measuring once a day for 7 days you will have 7 blood pressure readings: 130/80 150/90 145/85 140/90 135/80 140/85 145/90
All systolic readings: 130+150+145+140+135+140+145 = 985 Divide by total number of readings: 985 divided by 7 = 141 (round)
All diastolic readings: 80+90+85+90+80+85+90 = 600 Divide by total number of readings: 600 divided by 7 = 86 (round)
Average BP for one reading a day for 7 days = 141/86
Now, I’m sure you're wondering when to check your blood pressure again. Well, here are some common reasons to recheck your average blood pressure.
- After making changes to the foods you eat for about a month
- When you start walking or exercising for about a month
- Every 10 lbs you lose
- Any time you start a new medication you will want to measure your blood pressure for about 2 weeks to see the full effect of the medication
- When you start or stop a new supplement
- When your doctor tells you to
- When you are having any of these symptoms- headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting
- After obstructive sleep apnea, pain, or heartburn/GERD is treated
2. Which way is your blood pressure trending
The average of your blood pressure readings over a period of time gives a clue to how your numbers are trending. The trend is what is important. The term 'trend' means a general direction in which something is developing or changing.
This is especially good to see if your blood pressure is slowly creeping up, staying the same, or lowering.
It’s really nice to take these numbers with you to your doctor’s appointment especially if you have white coat syndrome. You can show your doctor that your numbers are much lower at home.
You can measure your daily average, weekly average, or monthly average and see a trend.
I like the weekly trend since your daily blood pressure is variable.
If you have been measuring and recording for a while, you can go back and calculate your averages for each week and put them on your calendar so you can see them over the month and year.
Look at the trend. Are your averages going up...down..staying the same?
Do you notice a trend that maybe after a weekend of traveling and eating out a lot? Do you notice a higher average when you are more stressed? What is causing your trend up? What is causing your trend down (hopefully diet and exercise!)?
1. Take your blood pressure readings and calculate a weekly average
2. Record those averages on a calendar so you can identify trends
BONUS TIP: Focus on eating whole foods (avoiding pre-packaged food-like substances as much as possible) including protein, healthy fats and vegetables, until you are satiated (that feeling where you are about 80% full).
Don't deprive yourself since this always backfires, causing you to eat more food later in the day.
Most processed foods have chemical additives, added sugars, and a high sodium content that make it difficult for us to limit consumption and spike blood pressure. In fact, this is the foundation for the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension).
The DASH diet reduces blood pressure by an average of 11 points, that's equivalent to one blood pressure drug!!! This means that changing your diet alone could reduce your need for blood pressure medication! Read more about how to start eating the right foods to help lower your blood pressure here.
Or download your FREE Starter Kit to lower your blood pressure naturally without medication. Yes, you CAN do that!! Click on the image below and I'll send your free kit plus 60 recipes over to your inbox right now!
I hope this provides you with a foundation for how you monitor and manage your blood pressure.
What was your biggest takeaway? Comment below and let me know!
Related articles: What Causes High Blood Pressure & What You Can Do About It