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"One way to get high blood pressure is to go mountain climbing over molehills" Earl Wilson
One of the most bizarre gifts I received for Christmas was a blood pressure monitor from my parents. I have no real idea why I would need one, and can only think it was prompted by a bout of ill health I suffered just before Christmas wherein I felt nauseous, hallucinogenic and I almost blacked out. I said at the time that I wondered if it had been caused by low blood pressure, but thought no more about it. The next thing I know is that my mother has picked up on the worry I'd voiced over low blood pressure, and I was now the proud owner of my very own blood pressure monitor. Worrying mothers - what can you do with them? I've since discovered that my pre-Xmas episode was nothing more sinister than a migraine in a slightly different format. In the meantime I've got my very own blood pressure monitor 20 years ahead of when I would have expected to need one :o) That said I was keen to test it out and see if my health and blood pressure were as they should be for my age.
*** HOW DOES IT WORK? ***
The IBP HL168ZA is a fully automatic blood pressure monitor which operates through a wrist cuff. Once you insert the two AAA batteries (included) into the monitor, you first off need to set the machine to the correct time and date. I managed to do this without too much trouble as the instructions are simple and easy to follow. The monitor has a huge LCD display so it's ideal for all ages, and it displays any results in a clear and easy to understand fashion. The monitor is mounted on a large padded grey cuff which has plenty of Velcro stitched into it so it wraps snugly around your wrist.
Once you've primed your new toy with the correct time and date, it's time to take your first blood pressure reading. First off make sure that you haven't just smoked 20 Benson & Hedges or had a coffee recently as these will send your readings sky high. Make sure you're in a warm but not hot room and that you're not too cold either. You should also make sure you're in a quiet and relaxed environment and that you are sitting comfortably with both feet flat on the floor. Finally you should try not to move or shake the device during the measurement.
It's recommended that you use your left wrist to take readings from, and that you use the same arm everytime. You need to wrap the cuff snugly around your wrist but not so tight that it's painful. It's best to place the cuff directly over the pulse points on your wrist just above the inside of your palm. Ideally you should leave about 10mm or ¼ inch between the cuff and the bottom of your hand palm. Do make sure that any sleeves are pulled up out of the way or the results will be inaccurate. You need to wrap the cuff around your bare wrist so that the monitor is then facing you (otherwise it will be upside down and you won't be able to read it). Slowly raise your cuffed arm towards your heart level and relax with your palm facing up before pressing "Start" on the monitor. Immediately you will feel the cuff tighten around your wrist and it will hold this position for approximately 30 seconds. The cuff then deflates and you get your blood pressure reading.
The monitor has a lovely big LCD screen so it's very easy to understand. To the right hand side of the screen is a WHO (World Health Organisation) traffic light blood pressure indicator and a tiny arrow will point to where you are on the scale. If it shows green that's good, yellow and amber indicate that you should keep a close eye on things, and any red readings mean see your doctor. Please note that if you are not happy with your initial reading as it seems inaccurate or false, then it's a good idea to wait five to ten minutes before you attempt another go.
The IBP monitor also records your pulse everytime it does a blood pressure reading too. There is also an irregular heartbeat detector (IHB) in the monitor as well. A heartbeat rhythm that is more than or less than 25% from the average rhythm is usually defined as an irregular heartbeat rhythm. If a black heart symbol appears on the screen at the end of your reading it means that heartbeat irregularity has been detected during the measurement. If this symbol appears regularly then you should also consult a doctor.
One of the nifty things about the IBP HL168ZA is the memory function. It has the ability to store your 40 most recent blood pressure readings and your pulse rates along with the time and date of the reading. The monitor can be shared by up to three different people and you just have to make sure that you choose your number from the outset. There is no ability to customise the machine and you simply have to settle on being No 1, No 2 or No 3. When you press the Start/Stop button to switch the machine on, you will be greeted by a screen with the current time and date at the top left corner and a large No 1 on the screen. If you have chosen to record your results as No 2 or No 3 then you simply press a tiny grey "+" button to move the readings onto the right memory function. If you don't do this at the outset, then whoever is No 2 (that'll be my partner) will end up recording his results on the wrong memory function (that'll be the distorting high BP reading he's inadvertently placed on my No 1 position!). Unfortunately there is no way of deleting this one false reading without deleting all the others...grrr.
The monitor is remarkably quiet when in use and the only noise it really makes is a slight whirring noise as the cuff inflates initially. When it relaxes after the 30 second reading it makes a slight hissing noise, but that's it. This actual model also comes with a white plastic case which is ideal for travel and storing it dust free.
*** ANY PROBLEMS WITH THE DEVICE? ***
Yes, a major one I'm afraid. Whilst I have no problems getting an accurate reading from this device, I'm afraid it fails to record my partner's blood pressure properly nearly every time he tries to use it. It starts to inflate and then stops and returns an "E1" reading, which basically means error. There is no rhyme or reason as to why this should continually happen as he is following the instructions to the letter. It seems he's not alone as a couple of Amazon users report the E1 reading problem and the inaccuracy of their results.
*** THE BENEFITS ***
In a nutshell - peace of mind :o) As high blood pressure affects over 16 million people in the UK alone, having your own handy device to use at home is most beneficial. The results are quick, painless and accurate. If you do get two or three readings indicating you might have a problem, you can then book an appointment with your doctor and discuss what can be done to manage your health problems. In short, it will make the user feel more in control of their own health and less at the mercy of the NHS. Anyone who has ever tried ringing their doctor to get an appointment on a Monday morning in January will know exactly what I mean. First you have to get through and then you have to speak to the Doctor's Receptionist which is like trying to get past Cerberus at the gates of Hades, only probably less easy. With this monitor you can sit in the comfort of your own home without having to run the gauntlet of stroppy receptionists, over-worked nurses and tired doctors, which has got to be one big fat bonus.
Do please note that this monitor is designed for home use only, and it may not suit every user. As this is a wrist mounted monitor it may not be usable by some people. Some may obtain more accurate readings from a device where the cuff is placed on the upper arm rather than the wrist. If you are in doubt, then please check with your doctor.
Always remember that if you obtain several consistent readings indicating extreme high or low blood pressure then you really should see your doctor to get a more accurate picture and the best way forwards health wise.
*** HOW TO INTERPRET THE RESULTS ***
Without getting too technical or wordy, blood pressure can the summarised as follows. In order to live our hearts need to pump our blood around our bodies. As the blood flows it pushes against the sides of your blood vessels. Your blood pressure is the strength of this pushing against your blood vessels. If this pressure is too high then it puts more strain on your arteries and your heart....sometimes leading to heart problems or strokes.
Blood pressure is not something you can feel or notice, but it's a very good indicator of your overall health so that's why doctor and nurses are so keen to have it measured and monitored. Blood pressure is measured in "millimetres of mercury" (mmHg) and is written as two numbers. For example, if your reading is 120/80mmHg, your blood pressure is 120 over 80. In actual fact an optimal reading is 120/80. If your results show an upper (systolic) reading of more than 140 and a lower (diastolic) reading of more than 90 then you have high blood pressure (hypertension). If your reading shows an upper (systolic) measurement of 100 or less and a lower (dystolic) measurement of 60 or less then you have low blood pressure (hypotension).
The World Health Organization (WHO) has set out a table to classify blood pressure values:-
Hypotension/low blood pressure = Lower than 100/60
Optimal reading = 100-120 over 60-80
Mild Hypertension/high blood pressure = 140 to 160 over 90 to 100
Moderate Hypertension/high blood pressure = 160 to 180 over 100 to 110.
Severe Hypertension/high blood pressure = Higher than 180 over 110.
If your readings consistently come out in either the lower or higher ranges then you really MUST see a doctor so you can take steps to improve your health. For example, someone with a blood pressure level of 135/85 is twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke as someone with a reading of 115/75.
My results have been 110/56, 106/53, 87/70, 98/61, 99/64 and 100/61 which shows that I often have optimal blood pressure but that I am also sometimes bordering on low blood pressure / hypotension. My partner, on the other hand, has readings of 128/55 and 131/59 which shows that he has much higher blood pressure than me and he is bordering on Mild Hypertension. He may claim that his higher blood pressure is as a result of the stress of living with me, but I know better and suggest that he cuts out the fattier foods stuffs he loves so much!
*** IS A HEALTHIER LIFESTYLE NEEDED? ***
In an ideal world we should all have an optimal blood pressure of around 120/80. At this level we greatly reduce our risk of strokes or heart disease. However, we don't all live in an ideal world and if your blood pressure is higher than 120/80 then you need to take steps to reduce it. Whilst a large percentage of those suffering with blood pressure problems can pinpoint their cause to hereditary conditions, there are many steps you can take to help yourself.
The usual suspects at the root of so many health problems lurk at large with those that suffer from high blood pressure. Being overweight, smoking and indulging in too much alcohol are all massive contributory factors in causing your blood pressure to go up. Other causes are a stressful lifestyle and too much salt in your diet. Doctors will advise anyone diagnosed with high blood pressure to lose that excess flab - even losing a couple of pounds can help bring down your blood pressure reading. They also recommend exercise such as jogging, brisk walking, swimming or cycling as all these will all help improve your blood circulation and the general well-being of your cardiovascular system. Lastly - not burning the candle at both ends and getting a good night's sleep is one easiest ways to improving your general health.
If you suffer from low blood pressure, then in the majority of cases you don't have anything to worry about. The lower your blood pressure the lower your chances of heart disease or a stroke, so all good news there. However, if low blood pressure does cause you to regularly faint or black-out then it's probably wise to see your doctor.
If you'd like to read more about blood pressure problems there is an excellent website at http://www.bloodpressureuk.org/Home, where they'll explain things in more detail.
*** CONCLUSION ***
Whilst it's not something I would have envisaged buying until I was ready to draw my pension, I guess this blood pressure monitor will be handy enough in the years to come. It's a very easy device to use as it gives a quick and painless result. The display screen is easy to read and understand. The traffic light indicator at the side of the device gives you a quick one glance understanding of what your blood pressure is doing. If you need further details the LCD display also gives your systolic and diastolic readings as well as your pulse rate.
I have no idea why it has displayed the error message on so many occasions when my partner has tried to use it, as it has given me an accurate result time after time. I had no idea that my blood pressure could dip quite so low and that's something to keep an eye on. Similarly, my partner's blood pressure should be a little lower than it currently is (when he gets a reading from it), so that's something to watch as well.
Recommended with four stars for good peace of mind in the comfort of your own home.
*** QUICK OVERHAUL OF PRODUCT FEATURES ***
* Fully automatic with time, date and pulse rate on a large LCD Display
* Fits any wrist circumference between 135mm to 195mm
* Traffic light BP indicator = green is good and red means danger
* Clinically tested and approved to WHO (World Health Organisation) standards
* Can be used by up to three different people (each user has the facility to store their last 40 BP readings in the memory)
* Two years warranty
* Comes with 2 x AAA batteries included
The cardboard box it comes in contains the instruction booklet, a two year warranty and a white plastic storage / travel case in which to keep the cuff.
*** PRICE AND AVAILABILITY ***
The unit is manufactured and sold by IBP Healthcare for £29.99 plus £1.45 for shipping. The product link is at http://ibphealthcare.com/acatalog/blood_​pressure_monitor.html#a53
However it's cheaper on good old Amazon as it's a tenner cheaper at only £19.99 including free postage and packing. The link is at http://www.amazon.co.uk/IBP-Hl-168Z-Auto​matic-Pressure-Monitor /dp/B003ASUI7O/ref​=dp_return_1?ie=UTF8&n=65801031&s=drugst​ore
Further details can be obtained from the manufacturer at:-
International Business Products Limited
6 Newfield Court
Tel: 01942 819695
Fax: 01942 817868