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Do It Yourself (DIY) Blood Pressure - Part 1

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This is part one of what I call DIY (do-it-yourself) blood pressure management. So, you're often told that: you can't do it; you're too dumb/misinformed; don't have the tools, etc. I'll tell you the opposite: you can do a better job than your doctor, now that we have better tools, and a better understanding of high blood pressure.

The first thing you're going to need is a blood pressure monitor. Now there's many excellent blood pressure monitors out there, but there's a few basic ground rules to follow:

  • Do not get blood pressure monitors that measure blood pressure in the finger. They're convenient, they're cute, and they're inexpensive, but you don't want that, because they're not accurate.
  • Don't get a blood pressure monitor that measures blood pressure in the wrist. Those likewise are inaccurate.

You want a blood pressure monitor that wraps around the upper arm. And there are many of those — many good manufacturers, like Becton Dickinson and Omron.

One of my favorites is what I have here. This is a Withings device. It's wireless, a Bluetooth device. It's self wrapping, it's got velcro [you heard that]. Then you put it on your arm and, easy as that. I take my smartphone. It's got an app on there that I downloaded, and it activates the blood pressure monitor and self-inflates. I love this device because it's so effortless. It takes only a minute. It's made by Withings [now Nokia], and the app tracks your blood pressure which is very convenient — don't have to enter any numbers.

And what I like about this is you can even get your blood pressure while you're walking, doing something, like on a treadmill. You know that's a whole other conversation, for another video, another other report, that blood pressure during exercise is a very very helpful value.

Because you don't have to pump it up with one of those bulbs — to pump air into; it does it by itself very nicely; you can actually take your blood pressure while you're walking a treadmill.

Qardio (that's Qardio with a “Q”), also makes a very similar wireless Bluetooth device.

Now these Bluetooth devices are a few dollars more. Where you can get a very nice non-Bluetooth device, even self-inflating, for $59 or $69, these wireless self-inflating Bluetooth-enabled devices tend to be more like $99. Some are discounted, in some retailers, but it's a little bit more expensive. I think it's worth the extra few dollars because of the ease, of tracking, the ease of data entry, ease of inflation, and then added benefit if you ever need to, in future, get exercise blood pressure; these things are really good. So the first step in DIY high blood pressure is to have a device that allows you to measure blood pressure.

Now the reason why you can do a better job in managing blood pressure (and we'll talk in part two about how to reduce your blood pressure) is that you're not going use drugs. Now the drugs are very imperfect.

So the first drug advised by primary care doctors, cardiologists, etc. are diuretics, like hydrochlorothiazide. These so-called thiazide diuretics are awful. One, they cause you to be dehydrated. So wait a minute. Aren't we told that hydration is good for you? It prevents kidney stones, it keeps you alert and healthy, right? And yet, we're given a dehydrating agent to reduce blood pressure. So that's one problem. They have metabolic problems. They raise blood sugar, for instance. They raise triglycerides. They reduce HDL. And, there's risk for sudden cardiac death. You could take this “benign” drug for your blood pressure, a thiazide diuretic, and die, because thiazide diuretics cause pretty substantial loss of potassium and magnesium in the urine. And low potassium, low magnesium, are causes, and fairly common causes, of sudden cardiac death. It takes months to years for that to happen, but it does happen. I've seen it happen many times.

There are other drugs that have adverse implications, like beta blockers; beta blockers like metoprolol, nebivolol, carvedilol, labetalol (they all end in that “…ol”), there's others, raise your blood sugar, raise triglycerides, reduce HDL, and they make you gain weight, or block weight loss, and they make you tired. So they're lousy. Now there's other drugs, but they all have problems.

And so the reason why you can do a better job than your doctor in blood pressure is because you're not using drugs. The drugs are not perfect. They introduce a whole collection of problems all of their own. That's why a person who's taking say, three blood pressure drugs, and obtains a normal blood pressure, still has increased heart attack and stroke risk, compared to a person who reduced blood pressure to normal using natural means. Because that that person using natural means is not exposed the excess or residual risk of drugs. You're not, for instance, being exposed the risk for sudden cardiac death, higher blood sugar, of a thiazide diuretic or a beta blocker.

So you can obtain better results in blood pressure management, on your own. Start with the blood pressure monitor, a good one. Get comfortable with it, and then we'll talk about how to use this device in a future conversation.