Week 1:

Building Habits for Better Blood Pressure

Hypertension (aka high blood pressure) is a condition that affects almost half of American adults. Whether you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure or just looking to reduce your risk, Brook is here to help.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll cover lifestyle changes you can make to help keep your blood pressure in a safe range. Each week we’ll have a specific focus, and you can chat with Brook’s Experts to set your goal, stay motivated, and stay accountable.

What is high blood pressure?

As your heart pumps, it moves blood through your body. The blood applies pressure to your veins and arteries as it’s moving around. If the pressure is too low, you may experience lightheadedness or even faint because blood can’t make it to your brain. If the blood pressure is too high, you most likely won’t feel any symptoms at all unless in extreme emergency. Most people feel fine when they are diagnosed with high blood pressure because it doesn’t have any obvious symptoms. 

There are several factors that can increase your risk for developing high blood pressure: smoking, high stress, physical inactivity, excess alcohol intake (more than 1-2 drinks a day), being overweight, and a diet high in processed foods or sodium and low in fruits and veggies.

When was the last time you had your blood pressure checked? If you know the reading, you can check out where you fall on this chart. If you haven’t had your blood pressure measured recently, or don’t remember the reading, now is a good time to get checked out!

If you have a reading that is higher than 120/80 and haven’t been diagnosed with prehypertension or hypertension, please consult your primary care doctor. 

Why is it important to manage high blood pressure?

If you don’t feel any symptoms of high blood pressure, why is it a problem? Having high blood pressure is like having a slightly overinflated tire. That tire is going to wear out a lot faster than one that’s properly inflated. 

As pressure increases insides your veins and arteries, it starts to cause some damage. Because of this damage, high blood pressure increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. The increased pressure can also lead to heart failure, kidney failure, or vision loss.  Monitoring your blood pressure regularly and making adjustments to lifestyle and/or medications will keep you on the road a lot longer. 

Measuring blood pressure

Measuring your blood pressure helps you and your healthcare provider determine if treatments are working. Studies also suggest that frequent testing can also help keep blood pressure under better control. If you don’t have prehypertension or hypertension, we recommend testing your blood pressure at least twice during this program, in week 1 and at the end of week 4 so you can compare the readings.

There are a few ways to start testing your blood pressure:

  • Your healthcare provider’s office. You are likely already getting tested when you go see your doctor or other healthcare provider! Ask them to write it down so you can log that reading later in Brook.
  • Get a cuff. You can buy a blood pressure cuff to have with you at home to use at your leisure. Automatic devices are much easier for the home user to operate, no stethoscope required! Some cuffs even have Bluetooth and can be connected to your phone to log automatically in Brook. 
  • At the store. Go to your local pharmacy/store that has a blood pressure measuring machine. These are often free and easy to use.
  • Head to the fire department. Fire stations offer free blood pressure testing to the public. Call ahead to your local station to see what time you can drop by.

 

While home testing is simple, there are some “best practices” to make sure you get the most accurate reading. Here are the basics to home testing, recommended by the American Heart Association.

  1. Avoid smoking, exercising, or drinking caffeinated or alcoholic beverages for at least 30 minutes before measuring.
  2. Be sure you have been sitting down for at least 5 minutes before testing. 
  3. Relax. Sit still in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your back straight and supported. Rest your arm on a flat surface at heart level.
  4. Place the bottom of your cuff above the bend of your elbow.
  5. Use a calibrated and validated device, and make sure the cuff fits you correctly for accurate results. Take at least 2 readings 1 minute apart at the times specified in your plan. For example, 2 readings before morning meds, and 2 readings before dinner. Record all results in Brook.

 

Keep in mind that wrist and finger monitors are not the most reliable devices, so a cuff is the way to go if you are able to get one. Make sure it fits properly around your upper arm, and purchase a validated device (your doctor or pharmacist can point you in the right direction).

Tracking your progress by keeping a log of your data is the best way to see how you are doing and if you are improving. It can help you discover what’s working and what’s not so you can inform your decisions around food, exercise, and meds.

Brook allows you to log your blood pressure readings anytime, anywhere, all from the comfort of your smartphone. You can see all your logged readings in easy-to-read graphs and Brook’s Experts are there to answer any questions you have or offer feedback.

Tracking medications and supplements

If you are also managing your blood pressure using medication, making sure to take those medications consistently is an important part of your care plan. This also applies to any medication you may be taking and supplements such as a multivitamin as well. On Brook, you can set up your medication schedule by entering when you take certain meds by time of day and days of the week. Brook will save that information for easy logging. You can also set reminders in the app, making sure you take your medications on time, and that you are testing your blood pressure as frequently as needed. 

Creating a Doctor's Report

Want to show your doctor your progress? You can get a printable report from Brook on how you’ve been doing for the last 30, 60, or 90 days. This report includes things like blood pressure readings, activity, sleep, and more. To get your Doctor’s Report, open the Brook app and tap “Care Circle” in the upper left, then tap “Create Report.” Choose the time frame and enter the emails you want to receive the PDF report. To generate a doctor’s report you’ll need to make sure that you have the diabetes or hypertension care plan marked in your profile. If you don’t have either condition, you can always change your care plan back after you generate a report. 

That’s everything for this week!

Time to pick your goal for logging healthy habits in the Brook app:

Log blood pressure in the app at least 1 time this week
Log medication or supplements in app 3 times

Open the app and tell Brook’s Experts what goal you’ve chosen!

Chat soon!
A picture of Health Coach Emily smiling for the camera
Reviewed by Emily Matson, MS, RDN​

on July 13, 2020. Emily is a Registered Dietitian with her Master's degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA, and is one of our Brook Experts.