Blood pressure tracking entails keeping a record of blood pressure readings over a period of time and logging them into a chart. This is usually done at a doctor’s request, often following a life threatening event, such as a stroke or heart attack. Often the patient will purchase a home blood pressure device to take regular readings at home. The patient usually is also asked to bring the record of blood pressure readings to their doctor's appointments, so the physician can use it as a tool to prescribe and adjust medications.
In order to do blood pressure tracking, the patient may need to invest in some kind of home blood pressure device. There are different types of machines on the market and most are fairly simple to use; the choice may depend largely on budgetary considerations. Many blood pressure tracking systems offer a digital display and are totally automated. The cuff is simply wrapped around the patient’s arm, and with the push of a button, the cuff inflates automatically and the reading appears on the display screen. Some systems also offer memory and a print out to bring to the doctor’s office.
When doing blood pressure tracking, the numbers are compared to what is usually considered optimal blood pressure, or a reading of 120 over 80. These numbers are a combination of a systolic reading — the top number of 120, and a diastolic reading — the bottom number of 80. The systolic number measures the pressure on the arteries when the heart is pumping, and the diastolic number measures the pressure between heartbeats. Sometimes doctors will ask patients to do blood pressure tracking at home because of what is commonly referred to as “white coat hypertension,” which means that a patient may have a higher blood pressure reading in a doctor’s office or hospital setting.
Participating in blood pressure tracking may also be a way to keep a patient from worrying unnecessarily about their blood pressure. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is sometimes called the “silent killer” because it usually has no symptoms. By allowing the patient to take their own blood pressure at home, it affords them some control over their healthcare and lets them participate in recovery in a positive and proactive way. In order to assure accuracy, the patient may be asked to bring the unit into the doctor’s office to to test the readings.