Friday, 3 October 2014

Monitoring Blood Pressure and Eating Right

Recently I was told by my doctor that my blood pressure is a bit high. Now, if she had said I had high cholesterol I would know what to do - cut out fried foods for instance. But my cholesterol is fine (really good, in fact) - it's my blood pressure I have to worry about.

The past six months have been pretty stressful as my boyfriend and I have just bought a house, but spent several months being messed around (in our opinion at least) by the owners, the estate agents and the solicitors. Now we are in our dream home, but having to redecorate it from top to bottom, which we decided to do all in one go before we even unpacked! So it's no wonder perhaps that my blood pressure has risen - on the other hand, high blood pressure - or hypertension - is caused by several things, and stress is not necessarily one of them. The main causes are:
  • an unhealthy diet (in particular not enough fruit or veg)
  • eating too much salt
  • not doing enough exercise
  • drinking too much alcohol
  • being overweight
I am a fussy eater but do eat a reasonable amount of fruit and veg and my diet is by and large quite healthy - I'm more likely to choose a chicken breast or piece of fish with veg than I am burger and chips. I go to the gym at least three times a week and have a personal trainer, and walk to the train station on top, and I only have a glass of wine every few weeks if that. On the other hand I am overweight - quite annoying given everything I've just described above! I have a sweet tooth and as you can tell, do like to bake - though just because I make and blog about cakes and puddings doesn't mean I eat all of them! Even so, my diet could be better and I do need to do something about my blood pressure.

Salt is probably one of the key culprits in my case. Salt makes your body retain water which raises your blood pressure. The problem is, salt makes food taste nice!

There is a lot of hidden salt in processed foods like ready meals, and also things like biscuits and cereals. Again, I don't really eat ready meals or biscuits other than ones I bake myself so still no clue there. I do add salt to the water when I am cooking vegetables and if I don't, then I just want to add salt at the table. However, I am going to try an alternate - not using salt when I cook vegetables but adding a dash of lemon juice, or fresh or dried herbs, or a sprinkling of chilli flakes and so on when I serve the food. I will also make sure I look carefully at labels when I do eat ready made foods.

5 a day: I do need to eat more fruit in particular as I very rarely get my five-a-day (though I'm often not far off). If you have a sandwich for lunch and then don't have vegetables with dinner - e.g. if I'm having a pizza, as I don't really like salad - then it is hard to get anywhere near my 5-a-day. Other days, I might have fruit and museli for breakfast, fruit as a snack, and three types of veg with dinner. Definitely room for improvement, anyway.

Alcohol: I think I'm ok on that front

Exercise: again I'm doing about as much as I possibly can, at the gym three or four times a week, and of that, a personal trainer twice a week, plus walking half an hour to the station in the morning even though it means I have to leave a lot earlier. I'm not keen on walking home from the station though because it's up hill, but I might have to start making myself!

Losing weight: one of the reasons I plan my meals every week is to make sure I pick healthy options at least most of the time, rather than just come home and see what's in the freezer. I also go to Slimming World in an effort to lose weight, which has been going quite well lately because of all the redecorating we've had to do! Hopefully as my weight comes down, my blood pressure will too.

Monitoring your blood pressure is really important if you are concerned and it's vital to speak to your doctor rather than to try to self-diagnose. At the same time, my doctor admits that her surgery isn't the best place for me to take a blood pressure reading - I am a bit anxious and have also had a brisk 20 minute walk to get there (you are not supposed to take a blood pressure reading straight after exercise).

You can buy blood pressure monitors relatively cheaply to use at home and I had been thinking of getting one so was very pleased when I was contacted by Ozeri and asked if I would like to review one.

I was sent the Ozeri CardioTech Premium Series BP3T Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor with Intelligent Hypertension Detection. It normally retails at £119.99 but at the moment is available on Amazon for just £49.99.


I was a bit nervous about using the monitor and figuring out what to do but it's so easy. It comes with the four batteries you need, plus an instruction manual and smart carry-case. It took a matter of moments to set up, just adjusting the date and so on - the blood pressure monitor will store up to 60 readings by date, to allow you to see how your blood pressure has changed over time, and what's more it will do this for two people. You just select which person you want to test by the press of a button.

I don't like the way blood pressure cuffs inflate and do find my arm is squeezed almost to the point of being in pain; the Ozeri CardioTech Premium Series monitor is a lot more comfortable as it has some way of varying the speed at which the cuff inflates to reduce measurement time and increase comfort.

It also has an automatic irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) detection and hypertension indicator, though luckily those didn't come on when I used it! The digital display is really easy to read and the whole thing is so much simpler to use than I was expecting.

As two people can store their readings I suggested to my boyfriend that he use it as well. He actually takes medication for high blood pressure due to previous health issues he has had. He has lost a lot of weight over the last year or so, as he's been doing a lot more exercise, and I like to think that my cooking has helped as that was around the time he moved in with me! For that reason, I've been nagging him to go back to the doctor to check his prescription is still appropriate but he's being a typical man and never getting around to it. He was quite keen to try out my new blood pressure monitor and was astounded by the readings as they were much lower than he was expecting. He's now making an appointment with his doctor to see if his medication can be reduced, which is great!


So for all sorts of reasons I think having a blood pressure monitor at home is a great idea if you are concerned about your blood pressure, though it is definitely not an excuse to avoid going to your doctor. If you do need to monitor your blood pressure though, I think it makes a lot more sense to be able to do it more frequently and in the comfort of your own home rather than once or twice a year at the doctor. I highly recommend the Ozeri CardioTech Premium Series monitor as it's so easy to use and also looks quite nice unlike the big contraptions they use at the doctor's!

 Thanks to Ozeri for providing me with the product for review. All opinions are my own and I was not required to write a positive review - if I say I like a product, then I genuinely do.






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