Understanding Blood Pressure

What is Blood Pressure?

Blood is carried from the heart to all parts of your body in vessels called arteries.

Blood Pressure

Blood Pressure is the measurement of force applied to the artery walls. Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Blood pressure measures how hard your heart is working to keep you alive and specifically, it is the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the arteries. Each time the heart beats (about 60-70 times a minute at rest), it pumps out blood into the arteries. When your heart beats and pumps your blood, your blood pressure rises which is called systolic pressure. When the heart is at rest, between beats, your blood pressure falls and this is referred to as diastolic pressure.

Blood pressure changes during the day. It is lowest as you sleep and rises when you get up. It also can rise when you are excited, nervous, or exercise.

Blood Pressure is displayed as a fraction

Your BP is communicated as a fraction.

Systolic
The top number, which is also the higher of the two numbers, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats (when the heart muscle contracts).

Diastolic
The bottom number, which is also the lower of the two numbers, measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats (when the heart muscle is resting between beats and refilling with blood).

So what does the American Heart Association (AHA) recommend for healthy blood pressure?

BP Recommendations from AHA

Source: American Heart Association

For most of your waking hours, your blood pressure stays pretty much the same when you are sitting or standing still. That level should be lower than 120/80. When the level stays high, 140/90 or higher, you have high blood pressure. With high blood pressure, the heart works harder, your arteries take a beating, and your chances of a stroke, heart attack, and kidney problems are greater.

Why Track Blood Pressure?

As we age, the risk for high blood pressure (hypertension) rises.  High blood pressure can lead to cardio vascular disease, strokes, and other health issues. However, regular physical activity (exercise) makes your heart stronger.

A stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort. If your heart can work less to pump, the force on your arteries decreases, lowering your blood pressure. Whether you currently have high blood pressure or looking to maintain healthy blood pressure, exercise is a highly effective tool for a healthy heart and Fitdigits can track it all on your iPhone or Android.

In fact, studies show that regular exercise can reduce your systolic blood pressure by an average of 5 to 10 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). For some people, exercise is enough to reduce the need for blood pressure medication or eliminate the need altogether.

If your blood pressure is at a desirable level — less than 120/80 mm Hg — exercise can keep it from rising as you age. Regular exercise also helps you maintain a healthy weight, another important way to control blood pressure.

Can I exercise to lower my blood pressure?

Adding a moderate amount of exercise for 20-30 minutes per day is enough to experience the benefits. For example, jog, play tennis, try hiking or use the elliptical machine at the gym. Then, add a brisk walk a few days a week, too. The idea is to increase your heart rate during exercise and track it using Fitdigits and a heart rate monitor belt. Use heart rate zones to guide your effort level and try to get your heart rate in Zones 2 and 3 for at least some of your exercise.

For your overall activity, try to increase the amount of steps throughout the day. For example, park at the end of the parking lot, take the stairs and walk around the block while you talk on the phone rather than sit in your desk. Try to achieve 10,000 steps per day and track this using Fitbit which will automatically sync to your Fitdigits account.

Since it takes about one to three months for regular exercise to affect your blood pressure, it’s important to continue exercising. If you want long-term health benefits, consider these changes as lifestyle improvements.

Sources: American Heart Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Life Clinic, Mayo Clinic, Livestrong and Wikipedia.

No More BP Meds – How I Convinced My Doctor

by Keith M., Fitdigits user.

This morning at the doctor’s office, my blood pressure was elevated at 140/127. Given this, my doctor wanted to know “Why did you go off your blood pressure medicine?”

I show her all of my Fitdigits blood pressure records which reflect that my blood pressure is just fine. She is skeptical, “I don’t know if your BP machine is calibrated.”

I explain, “I have been spreading my BP tests around at different places. I strongly suspect that your nursing assistants are taking my readings high and I do not want to take BP medicine just because you think I am borderline.”

She concludes that my current elevated BP reading is a result of taking over the counter sinus and allergy medication.

She wants to know more about other areas of my health.

“Since fast foods were not doing me so good, I switched to a vegan, no dairy, no meat diet, and here look at the exercise I’ve been doing.” I show her my workout results in Fitdigits.

She reviews my progress over the last three months, “You lost 20 pounds! Ok, lets try taking you off the cholesterol lowering drugs for the rest of this cycle and we will test you in three months.”

Cool…no meds is good! The more documentation the better your credibility and Fitdigits helped me prove my progress.

Tracking Blood Pressure with Fitdigits Apps

Use any blood pressure cuff/monitor to measure your blood pressure, then manually enter your stats into Fitdigits, or link with supported blood pressure partners like Withings and have your blood pressure automatically imported from their portal.

To manually enter your blood pressure:
1. Launch your Fitdigits app, tap Menu > Health  Vitals
2. Tap Blood Pressure.
3. Tap “+” sign located at the top right of the screen.
4. Enter your blood pressure, tap Save.

You can also change the date and time if you are entering a blood pressure from a previous date.

To manually delete a blood pressure entry:

1. From the same screen, swipe from right to left to delete any of the manually entered blood pressure entries. (A red delete icon will appear.)
2. Tap delete and the entry will be erased from your dashboard.

Please note you can only delete manually entered blood pressure entries, you cannot delete a BP entry from Withings or other data provider.

Fitdigits Alarms Helped Regulate My Heart Rate

Testimonial from Fitdigits User – Dorothy C.

I am 61-years old and went to my doctor because of heart palpitations. My blood pressure was up and my doctor scheduled a treadmill stress test. Everything checked out OK but my doctor insisted I use medication to lower my blood pressure. I convinced her to let me try to control my blood pressure and heart rate with diet and exercise first instead of using medication. She agreed to give me a few weeks.

I started running the next day but whenever I ran my heart rate would go up very fast and very high and I was concerned it was too high. Then, Fitdigits Connect and iRunner confirmed that my heart rate was spiking very quickly. I started using the audible alarms to warn me when it was happening instead of viewing it after my workout. Whenever the little cowbell would ring, I would slow it down slightly. Eventually, my endurance got better and I heard the alarm less and less. I’m able to run longer and faster as a result of my training and next month I plan to participate in my first race: relay marathon.

iRunner stores all my data so I am able to look back and see my progress from the beginning. When I go for my next check-up which will be in a few weeks, I plan to take iRunner with me to show my doctor the results of my workouts. The graphs that are provided show a quick visual of my data. Fitdigits has made my workouts fun, I look forward to exercising and I’m so excited about my progress.

-Dorothy C., Fitdigits User
(Palmyra, WI)

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