Did you know that roughly a third of adults in the UK have high blood pressure? The good news is that it can often be addressed by making simple lifestyle changes. Through regular monitoring, triggers can be identified and simple measures taken to improve heart health and overall wellbeing.
Yet people are far more likely to track daily steps and weight, rather than blood pressure. Only 15% use health tracking devices to keep a regular check on their blood pressure, according to recent research by Braun, compared to almost 50% of UK adults who weigh themselves and count their daily steps. In fact, two thirds of adults surveyed only get their blood pressure checked occasionally during routine GP appointments, while 7% never get it checked at all.
This simply doesn’t add up; heart health is the number one measure of overall wellbeing, and people fear that high blood pressure increases the risk of stroke or heart attack – yet most people do not think to monitor it. As medical expert Dr. Achim Max Brenske points out:
“There are many health measures that we are already consistently tracking, yet blood pressure is a metric that is often not thought about but could be one of the most important. Making blood pressure monitoring part of your at-home health checks, with an easy to use wrist or arm monitor, can help to identify triggers and allow you to immediately make simple adjustments to significantly improve your health and wellbeing. It’s such a small change that really can make a big difference, and ultimately save your life.”
I need to be aware of Squiggle’s blood pressure due to her anxiety and the meds she is on. Her dad also has thyroid issues. Therefore I am well aware of the need for close monitoring for existing health reasons. My own blood pressure and health is fine, but it is also equally important to ensure it stays that way!
Since I already understand the importance of keeping tabs on blood pressure, I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to review the brand new iCheck 7 Wrist Blood Pressure Monitor by Braun. I decided to lend it to Squiggle’s dad to have a go, since he has problems with blood pressure already; I thought it would be good to properly put it through its paces thoroughly…
Using the Monitor
The Braun iCheck 7 wrist blood pressure monitor comes with a quick start guide and more detailed manual. However, as the device is so intuitive, apart from double-checking which app I needed to download on my iPhone (Healthy Heart), within two minutes I had the batteries in, was connected to my phone, had the device on my wrist and had taken my first measurement.
With its one button operation and clever positioning tool – a ‘ball in the hole’ system that helps guide you to the correct position for taking an accurate reading – the device is simply fool proof and incredibly comfortable.
Healthy Heart App
The iCheck 7 syncs with the free Healthy Heart app on your phone or tablet, which then displays data using charts and graphs. The Healthy Heart app follows the simplicity of the device and, in addition to showing your recording history in various formats, it includes information on blood pressure, tips for recording the most accurate measurements and lifestyle recommendations for a healthier blood pressure.
To get the most of the app you can add detail on diet, exercise, mood, medications and sleep. This helps you to analyse how your lifestyle impacts your blood pressure. Blood pressure readings can also be shared with your doctor to discuss your health further.
Reading the Results
Results are colour coded both on the device and in the app; green (normal), yellow (mild hypotension), orange (moderate hypotension) and red (severe hypotension). This makes it really clear at a glance. In addition to blood pressure, the device records heart rate and alerts you to any irregularity.
Squiggle’s dad used the monitor to record his blood pressure regularly over the course of several days at various intervals. He discovered that most of the time his blood pressure was normal but he did have mild hypotension a few times and moderate hypotension once.
He will hopefully use this information to think about any positive lifestyle changes he can make to impact his blood pressure. One idea is using relaxation techniques before and after meetings. He will also discuss the results with his GP too, and continue to monitor results closely as well of course.
I am impressed with the monitor and its ease of use. The only thing that could improve it, is maybe if it came with a carry case. Aside from that, it is absolutely brilliant! If you’re looking for a quick and simple compact blood pressure monitor, this device is for you. If you’re not looking for one, why not?
Cost: RRP £99.99. The monitor is available to purchase from Boots.
Experts Tips for a Healthy Heart
Understand the factors that affect blood pressure…
Dr. Max Brenske, German GP and medical expert, explains that factors can vary: “your genetic disposition, age, sex, obesity, physical fitness, lifestyle factors, the time of day and medication can all play a role in your blood pressure and heart health. Explore the effect of these factors on your blood pressure by taking readings regularly.”
Meik Wiking, CEO of the Research Institute of Happiness, has plenty of tips for improving mood and blood pressure. He points out that our daily lives can be made healthier by making simple choices such as cycling or walking to work. Studies show that people who have active commutes not only enjoy their journey more but also have lower mortality and obesity rates. He also has these words of advice: “Learn to say no – We often try and pack too much into our daily or weekly schedule. Be realistic when you are making your to do lists.”
Lastly, he suggests investing in relationships: “One of the best predictors of whether people are happy or not is whether they are satisfied with their social relationships. We all need to be heard, seen and understood and have someone we can share worries and dreams with.”
With almost half of Brits revealing that they don’t regularly get a good night’s sleep, what are the reasons we are tossing and turning throughout the night? According to the research, financial worries (49%), relationships (47%) and health concerns (35%) top the list as the main contributors. Stressing about these factors impacts on sleep patterns, which in turn can raise blood pressure.
Nick Littlehales, Elite Sport Sleep Coach offers the following strategies to help improve sleep:
•Educate yourself on circadian rhythms so you’ll know when your body naturally has higher blood pressure, releases hormones and is optimised for either activity or sleep.
• Resting at multiple times during the day, rather than just at night, encourages your body to be in harmony with the circadian rhythms of the day.
• Manage your intake of stimulants, such as caffeine, to allow your body to recover and sleep more efficiently.
• Adopt good bedtime routines. Strenuous activity before bed will mean cortisol is heightened, keeping you awake. Take time to relax before bed; deep breathing, stretching or yoga for exanple. Also, reducing your exposure to blue light and encouraging the release of melatonin, your body becomes suppressed and ready for sleep.
• Your body has a natural drop in temperature before sleep, so moving from warm to cool will help you get quality, uninterrupted sleep. Having a warm shower and then moving into a cooler bedroom environment will help this process.
Health and Fitness
Simple activities, such as power walking can really make a difference Faya Nilsson (@FitnessOnToast) explains. However, she also suggests you need to put in the effort to train regularly to ensure optimal blood pressure levels.“Workout for 30 mins a day, four times a week; that’s the regularity you’ll need to help keep blood pressure at normal levels. If you have high blood pressure you should gradually and slowly increase training. I would advise training for shorter periods of time but more often. If you are struggling to find the time to train try body weight exercises to do at home like push-ups, pull-ups and lunges. You can do them anywhere.”
Food and Water
Faya also emphasises how crucial it is to drink plenty of water. “Dehydration absolutely impacts the blood pressure, leaving behind more sodium in the blood, so drinking two litres a day, throughout the day, will keep your blood pressure better regulated.”
Last but not least, she reminds us to eat well. Leafy greens, oily fish and berries are good choices, especially if you have high blood pressure. She recommends a healthy Low-GI diet with complex carbohydrates, reducing the amount of sodium in the diet.
Remember; small changes really can make a big difference. Knowing what triggers blood pressure spikes, through regular monitoring, is the first step to making long-lasting changes that will improve your heart and overall health.
*Disclosure: I was sent a Braun iCheck 7 wrist blood pressure monitor for the purpose of review and was compensated for my time. This does not in any way affect thoughts and opinions given in this post.