January 3, 2017 My Blood Pressure Wake Up Call

Health Notes​ 

For the past 10 years or so, I have had well controlled Hypertension. I exercise 4-5 days a week, eat properly and drink plenty of water. I check my blood pressure sporadically probably averaging 3-4 times a month. It had been in the 110 - 120/70-80 range. In early October at my annual physical, my blood pressure was 106/68! I was very pleased as was my doctor.

In late November, I discovered a new wearable technology device, the Helo (www.myfitnessband.com), that monitored steps, calories, sleep, heart rate like the other wearable devices but it also monitored blood pressure and did an EKG! I got one, calibrated it to my blood pressure cuff and over the first few days kept a close eye on its accuracy. The Helo results correlated well with my cuff but I found that my blood pressure was in the 130s/ high 80s-low 90s range. So, I increased the frequency of the Helo checking my vital signs from every 2 hours to every 30 minutes. Over the next week, to my surprise, my blood pressure was high in the 150/90s range and spiking up to 170/100 in the wee hours of the morning between 4 am - 7 am. And this was while I was sleeping!

I was very concerned. I saw my doctor again and she established that my nitric oxide level was depleted (I'll cover this essential substance that helps dilate blood vessels and it's relation to hypertension in another blog entry.) and ordered a battery of tests. We adjusted my meds, supplemented nitric oxide and discovered that my hormones were out of whack (technical medical term!).

With the Helo, I have been able to monitor my progress and email the results directly from the app to my doctor. I'm happy to report that my blood pressure has normalized and I am making the necessary improvements in my sleep and hormonal patterns to keep my blood pressure controlled. Even a doctor needs a doctor sometimes.

Key points:

1. Just because you feel fine, your blood pressure can still be elevated - even when you sleep! And just because your blood pressure was normal 6 weeks ago, doesn't mean it is still normal or that it is controlled all day long.

2. Normally, blood pressure reaches a 24 hour low around 3 am. If it does, you are considered a "dipper."

3. If your blood pressure doesn't dip, or worse spikes in the early morning, you are a "non-dipper." This increases your risk for complications from hypertension!

  •  Complications from inadequately controlled hypertension include
    • ​Enlarged heart 
    • ​Heart failure
    • Heart attack
    • Kidney damage
    • Stroke
    • Aneurysm (weakening of artery walls)​
    • Eye damage
    • ​and more

4.  Recommendations

  • Check your blood pressure at different times of day and keep a log
  • 120/80 or less is the goal and the lower the better (unless you experience dizziness)
  • Exercise regularly and eat a whole food diet with plenty of vegetables and good fat (nuts, seeds, avocados, etc.)
  • Drink at least 6 glasses of water daily
  • Consider getting a Helo (www.myfitnessband.com) and monitoring your blood pressure throughout day

Remember, what you do (or don't do) plays the most important role in your health and wellness. Take control and act now.

Proper knowledge followed by action is true power.

Stay well!

Frenesa K. Hall, MD