Plus, why you should keep tabs on ALL your heart numbers
Blood pressure (BP) guidelines are focusing on tighter and tighter targets.
What does that mean for you?
More hypertensive diagnoses… and more drugs.
And you know how I feel about that.
Now, don’t get me wrong… high blood pressure increases your risk of heart attack, heart failure, and stroke at ANY age. And it’s the most common chronic illness among older adults.
So, yes—maintaining healthy blood pressure is CRUCIAL to good health.
But is there a better way to monitor your BP than the conventional cuff?
Let’s take a look…
A better way to take BP readings?
A BP cuff straps around your arm and measures your peripheral blood pressure—or the pressure in the arteries between heart beats.
But if you suffer from any kind of arterial stiffness or plaque in your arteries, that kind of conventional reading may not be enough…
In fact, some experts now say that everyone over age 50 should also get a central blood pressure reading. It measures blood pressure in your aorta, the major artery that sends blood and nutrients around the body. And it can paint a more accurate picture about your likelihood of a heart attack, stroke, or heart disease down the road.
One method of measuring central blood pressure uses a tonometer, a small, wand-shaped instrument. The doctor places it on the skin over the brachial artery in the arm to measure your pulse.
By taking your pulse and peripheral blood pressure measurements together, the central blood pressure can be calculated with a mathematical formula called a generalized transfer function.
With all that being said, conventional blood pressure readings are still important and should be performed at every doctor’s visit. But if you have arterial plaque or stiffness—or seem to get inconsistent blood pressure readings—talk to your doctor about whether getting a central measurement might make sense for you.
If your doctor doesn’t know how to measure central blood pressure, they should be able to refer you to a specialist who knows about it and can measure it for you.
Of course, BP readings are just one piece of the ultimate, heart-health puzzle…
Know ALL your numbers
In addition to monitoring your BP, ask for these six tests in order to get a FULL picture of how your heart is functioning:
- C-Reactive protein (CRP), a measure of inflammation
- Homocysteine, an amino acid linked to heart disease
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), a measure of how quickly red blood cells settle into the bottom of a test tube, which also indicate unchecked inflammation
- Fibrinogen, a protein produced by the liver that helps with blood clotting
- HbA1c, or hemoglobin A1C, the long-term measure of blood sugar levels
- Comprehensive lipid panel, which measures cholesterol and triglycerides (blood fats)
As always, be sure to discuss your results with your doctor.