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Do you need to Check Your Blood Pressure? | by heidi


February is American Heart Month. The observance is a great time to learn about what causes heart disease and how you can prevent it.

Nearly half of adults in the United States (about 116 million people) have high blood pressure. In medicine, the condition is called hypertension—and it’s one of the risk factors for heart disease.1

High blood pressure can be controlled, but it takes early diagnosis and treatment. Technology is making it easier for patients to work with healthcare providers and manage the condition from home.

Apps may even help people find out they have high blood pressure and take steps to lower their risk of health complications.

 High Blood Pressure and Heart Disease

Decoding Blood Pressure Readings

A blood pressure reading has two numbers: systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number).

Your systolic blood pressure is the amount of force against your arteries when your heart contracts and pushes blood out to your body.

Your diastolic blood pressures the pressure remaining within your arteries while your heart is at rest between beats.

How High Is Too High?

Here’s a breakdown of what your blood pressure readings mean:

NORMAL: Less than 120 (systolic) and less than 80 (diastolic)

ELEVATED: 120–129 (systolic) and less than 80 (diastolic)

HYPERTENSION STAGE 1: 130–139 (systolic) or 80–89 (diastolic)

HYPERTENSION STAGE 2: 140 or higher (systolic) or 90 or higher (diastolic)

HYPERTENSIVE CRISIS (seek medical care immediately): Higher than 180 (systolic) and/or higher than 120 (diastolic)2

 Signs of a Hypertensive Crisis

Why Is Hypertension Dangerous?

High blood pressure often has no signs or symptoms. The condition can go undetected for months or years.

“Worldwide, about 50% of the expected population with high blood pressure are still undiagnosed, particularly in Western and developed nations,” Naveh Tov, MD, PhD, chief medical officer for, told Verywell.

Untreated hypertension is one of the top causes of heart disease around the globe.


If you don’t feel the effects of high blood pressure, not only is it less likely to be diagnosed, but you may not see the need to treat the condition once you find out you have it.

“High blood pressure is a silent disease, which can make it much harder to diagnose and treat,” Nicole Harkin, MD, FACC, of Whole Heart Cardiology, told Verywell. “It can also impact medication adherence, as it’s less compelling to take a medication for something you don’t feel as opposed to something that causes symptoms, like reflux.”

Even if you don’t feel it, that increased pressure in your arteries can do long-term damage to your body. “Untreated hypertension is one of the top causes of heart disease around the globe,” said Harkin. “It puts extra strain on the heart, forcing it to work harder than it should.”

Here are just a few conditions that untreated high blood pressure can lead to:3


Vision loss

Heart attack

Heart failure

Atrial fibrillation (“afib”)

Kidney disease

Sexual dysfunction

 Risks of Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure

Patients and Providers Working Together

If you are diagnosed with hypertension, your provider may recommend several strategies to help you lower your blood pressure.

“High blood pressure can be readily treated with dietary approaches as well as medications,” said Harkin. “Dietary approaches, like following a high plant, low salt, DASH-type diet, can be one way a patient can work to control their blood pressure.”

Worldwide, about 50% of the expected population with high blood pressure are still undiagnosed.


According to Harkin, it’s also important to find out what else might be contributing to high blood pressure.

“Screening for underlying medical issues that might be causing the blood pressure, like sleep apnea, is something that doctors and other providers should be doing,” said Harkin. “And if medications are required, making sure that they are not causing side effects—which increases the likelihood they will be taken—should be a priority.”

Measuring your blood pressure regularly at home can help you and your healthcare team determine more quickly if your current treatment plan is working or if it needs adjustment.

“If you already have a diagnosis of high blood pressure, you need to have the ability to measure your blood pressure from home,” said Tov. “Then you can know if your condition is under control or not. Based on your measurements, the medical team can make the right decisions for your care.”

 What Causes High Blood Pressure?

How Telehealth Can Help

Managing your blood pressure may not always require a trip to your healthcare provider’s office. With the increasing popularity and accessibility of virtual care and telehealth, your team might be able to advise you from your home.

“Telehealth is well suited for blood pressure management and can lead to quicker [increase in dosage] of medications if needed,” said Harkin. “Patient-reported home blood pressure monitoring has been demonstrated to be an accurate and reliable way to follow a patient’s blood pressure. In addition, patients can show you their pill bottles and ask questions from the comfort of their home.”

 What Is Telehealth?

One Company’s Innovative Approach, a global provider for video-based health and wellness monitoring solutions, has developed a new way to help people monitor their blood pressure at home using only smartphones, tablets, or laptops.

What Is PPG? uses photoplethysmography (PPG) technology. The tech uses low-intensity infrared light to measure changes in the circulatory system with each heartbeat.

PPG has traditionally been used to measure heart rate and oxygen saturation levels, but has applied the technology to other vital signs. It’s low-cost, non-invasive, and does not require calibration as some blood pressure monitoring devices do.4

 Coping With High Blood Pressure

To get a blood pressure reading with the app, a user points their smartphone’s camera at their face to let the app’s tech “look” at their upper cheeks.

From there, the app measures several vital signs, including blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and oxygen saturation. It takes about the same amount of time it would take to get a reading from a standard blood pressure cuff.

The challenge of diagnosing and controlling blood pressure starts with the ability to measure it.


Once the readings are taken, the app can automatically send data to the user’s healthcare provider to be reviewed. is not yet available for individuals to use. However, the company is currently working with insurance companies and healthcare systems across the globe that are looking for an easy-to-use and cost-effective way to reduce the risk of chronic disease.

“We should remember that elevated blood pressure is a leading risk factor for having a cardiovascular event,” said Tov. “The challenge of diagnosing and controlling blood pressure starts with the ability to measure it. Our device increases the affordability and availability of this measure.”