Both high cholesterol and hypertension (high blood pressure) raise the risk of heart disease. Further, both are silent: neither high cholesterol nor hypertension carry any outward signs. Oh, and both increase with age.
So in addition to keeping your cholesterol low, it’s important to monitor your blood pressure to ensure it’s not silently creeping up.
Measuring will keep you on track. While an annual fasting blood test will help ensure your cholesterol is okay, it’s far easier to test your blood pressure. And maybe more important – as high blood pressure is often referred to as ‘the silent killer.’
Here’s what you need to know about blood pressure readings. The top number (systolic) should be less than 120, and the bottom number (diastolic) should be less than 80. If, like me, you are surprised to find that your blood pressure is between 120-140 / 80-90, you have ‘prehypertension’ and you should reduce salt / make other lo-co-like lifestyle changes. You officially have hypertension if your BP is 140-159/90-99. Here’s an at-a-glance chart from the American Heart Association (the link above has more info):
How I found out my blood pressure was high was at a regular checkup. In fact, my blood pressure was high enough that my ob/gyn insisted I call a cardiologist. He recommended I reduce salt, as in the American Heart Association page above. And that I buy a blood pressure monitor and take my BP each morning to keep track of things.
The first thing I found out is that how you take your blood pressure matters: it should be first thing in the morning, before you exercise or drink any caffeine, and you should be sitting straight up, with both feet on the floor and your arm on the table. The CDC’s article, Are You Wrong About Your Blood Pressure explains in more detail. And there is useful information like cutting salt out of your diet – and exercising – to help lower blood pressure.
The technology offered in today’s blood pressure monitors makes it so much easier to track – the machine I chose uses bluetooth to record my readings and send right to my phone. Or I can navigate to their site, sign in, and create a graph in Excel (I know that does not sound fun to many, but it makes me smile). I actually printed my readings out over a few months and brought it to my cardiologist – and avoided blood pressure medication. (Though it must be said he told me to stop it with the daily monitoring!)
There are many options, I’m sure – but the machine I purchased also enables you to test and track 2 separate users, so it was handy when my husband needed to track his blood pressure as well.
If you have high cholesterol and aren’t checking your blood pressure (at least occasionally, certainly more often than just annually at the doctor’s office) then get thee to a pharmacy with a blood pressure measuring machine or buy one. The Omron BP786 is what I purchased, and it’s only $52 at the moment on Amazon. I like this particular machine – you might even have fun with a graph while finding out if your blood pressure is A-OK or high enough that you want to get checked by your doctor.
However you choose to, monitor your blood pressure in addition to your cholesterol for heart health.