Saturday 12 January 2019

Wearing a 24-hour Blood Pressure Monitor - My Experience

woman wearing blood pressure cuff

After a few jumpy readings and a history of pre-eclampsia in pregnancy my GP requested for me to wear a blood pressure monitor for 24 hours to give a true and consistent reading of what my current blood pressure is and whether there is any cause for concern. She wondered if I had been having a case of white-coat hypertension, where you get unusually high readings in the doctor’s office because you’re anxious. I have to say I didn’t think this was the case as I’d felt quite calm at the doctors and I am not normally anxious about having my BP taken, but I was happy to comply.

Fitting the Monitor with the Nurse
Two appointments needed to be made with the nurse, one day after the next to have the monitor fitted and then taken off. I found it all very straightforward and there’s nothing to be feared wearing one of these monitors. The only surprise for me was that it was much bigger than I expected, it’s a full arm cuff with a long tube leading down to an electronic monitor, housed in a case with a shoulder strap or a clip to go on your belt.

at home blood pressure monitor

The nurse explained that it was all automated and I didn’t need to do anything. Each half hour during the day the cuff would inflate and take a reading, then when I went to bed, I needed to press one button to tell it to change the readings to hourly, so I could get some sleep. I must say I was a bit worried on the sleep front as the GP had joked not to expect any, but I did quite well with only a couple of awakenings. So, I suspect it’s different for everyone.

I was given a sheet to mark down what I was doing as the readings were taken, so that the nurse could see if there were stress points that would impact my readings, and this was very simple.

A white cotton cuff had been put on my arm under the plastic blood pressure cuff, which made it more comfortable and I’m sure less sweaty when the weather is warm, but for me (perhaps due to having larger arms) it meant the cuff slowly slipped down and beyond my elbow as I walked. Of course, this isn’t effective, so I removed the cotton band and just wore the plastic cuff against my skin, which worked better for me. 

On the subject of arm size if you have a larger upper arm, make sure the nurse puts the right size cuff on you. When I was in hospital with pre-eclampsia years back my readings used to be horrendous if they used the regular cuff on me rather than a large one. Each of the cuffs that come with the BP monitor have a recommendation for arm size on them, so get your healthcare professional to measure your arm if unsure.

Wearing the BP Monitor
I was told to get on with my day as normal, as they wanted true readings throughout the day but personally, I found that each time the monitor beeped, and the cuff inflated if I was standing or walking, I got an error message and the machine would attempt to get another reading about a minute later. So, after a while I’d stop and sit (if possible) when the cuff was inflating as I felt it was a waste of time wearing the device for 24 hours if they didn’t get enough data to make a good clinical decision.

My friend asked me if it hurt to wear the device and yes, at times, it did. Probably as my blood pressure was fairly high the cuff had to inflate a great deal, and this meant it really squeezed my upper arm, to the point that my fingers would go red or numb and the recommendation is to not move your hand/ arm whilst it takes the reading, so I just grinned and took it. It was only about a minute each time. 

Once a reading is taken, it shows the reading, along with your heart rate for a short while on the monitor and I’m not sure it was helpful to me to peek at these, as in my case they were worryingly high at times.

On the second day when I went back to see the nurse, she unplugged the monitor and took that whilst I removed the cuff. It was very cool that she could connect the monitor straight to her PC and see all my readings. Anything showing in red was a cause for concern and a great deal of mine came up red. She could also find tends and averages and I left her office knowing I needed to see my GP for a decision on what treatment I needed, if any.

Follow up with the GP
My average daytime blood pressure was 152/93 and this puts me in the hypertension - stage 1 band, which means there is cause for concern. My GP explained that high blood pressure can affect various organs and lead to damage and thus it is important to check heart, kidney and eye function, to make sure there have not been any adverse effects. 

I've been keeping up to date with my regular eye checks and all seems fine, so I was sent off for an ECG on my heart and some blood tests to check out my kidneys and liver. As long as my organs were not showing any signs of damage then I basically have to lose some weight and keep my salt intake low. Relaxation and being stress free are important too, so I need to make sure I take time for myself and exercise. Thankfully I don't smoke and I rarely drink alcohol, so they are not factors for me, but they are for many people.

I'm keen to stay away from medication, so I'm going to be working hard this year to lose some weight and to get fitter. I know it is the answer to many of my health ailments.

I hope you've found this helpful and if you need to wear a 24 hour blood pressure monitor that you are feeling reassured it is nothing to worry about. 

All the best, Mich x

Some useful websites if you are worried about your blood pressure -

NHS - The basics

NHS - High Blood Pressure info

Blood Pressure UK

Bupa UK

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