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Reasons to Track Your Blood Pressure Readings during a Weight Loss Program

Victor E. Battles, M.D. , January 6, 2010

A blood pressure monitor can be a very valuable tool in almost any weight loss program. The primary reason is that the basic requirements for weight loss, i.e. diet and exercise, can have significant effects on pressure within the arteries which can be beneficial or harmful.  Additionally, some of the frequently used medications to help lose weight can also affect blood pressure.

Since it is a medical fact that high blood pressure or hypertension is more prevalent among obese individuals, it is important to know if your arterial pressure is normal before beginning and during any type of weight loss program whether or not you have been diagnosed with hypertension.

Even though exercise over time can lower arterial pressure, acutely, and particularly during vigorous or strenuous exercise, blood pressure rises, and if it reaches a certain level can result in harmful consequences such as a heart attack or hemorrhagic stroke. Medical reports are replete with accounts of individuals who have suddenly collapsed and died while performing vigorous exercise as part of a weight loss program.

Obtaining the guidance and medical expertise of a doctor is certainly recommended before beginning a weight loss program, but the arterial pressure information obtained during a single doctor visit is oftentimes insufficient for optimal safe supervision. Evaluation by a doctor prior to beginning a weight loss program certainly has its value, but a one time blood pressure reading in the doctor's office does not represent your average arterial pressure or your arterial pressure on different days under different circumstances.

Although 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring is the gold standard for determining true arterial pressure throughout the day and night, it is not practical for routine use, especially on a continuous basis during efforts to lose weight because of the expense involved.

Medical authorities have recognized that home blood pressure monitoring with an accurate monitor is an acceptable alternative to ambulatory monitoring. Experts in the field of hypertension recommend performing three readings 1 minute apart and averaging them in the morning and performing three readings 1 minute apart and averaging them at night, but additional readings can be obtained at other times such as immediately before exercise, midway through an exercise session or if any bothersome symptoms such as dizziness or headache are experienced. The important thing is that the readings and symptoms be reported to your doctor.

Recording the readings in a free-standing blood pressure tracker or the graft section of a personal health record software program are excellent economical ways of tracking your blood pressure during your weight-loss program, but if you don’t have budget constraints there are some automatic cuff monitors and wrist monitors which will perform three successive readings, average them for you, and upload the results to a computer onto which tracker software that accompanies the blood pressure monitor has been installed.

Tracking graphs can be extremely valuable in helping your doctor supervise your weight-loss efforts from a safety standpoint, especially if you are being treated for hypertension and if changes need to be made in your medication because of blood pressure changes which occur during your weight-loss efforts.

Tracking graphs can also motivate you in your efforts to lose weight if your record shows favorable blood pressure changes that correlate with weight loss. It's the old magic of having it written down and imprinted in your brain as you review it.

Since the dietary aspect of a weight loss program, should include the reduction of fat, alcohol and salt, a drop in blood pressure is likely to follow, because of the association between these substances and hypertension. Also, the weight loss which occurs with the restriction of calories is also oftentimes associated with a decline in blood pressure.

Finally, one of the three FDA approved weight reduction drugs, Phentermine, and several of the over-the-counter appetite suppressant diet pills can cause elevations in arterial pressure which can result in serious adverse consequences such as heart attack or stroke depending on the degree of elevation. Although supervision by a doctor is strongly recommended if one of these medications is a part of your weight-loss program, performing daily blood pressure readings with a home monitor and reporting any noteworthy changes to your physician is an added safety valve during your quest to lose weight.

In addition to improving the safety and possibly the effectiveness of your weight-loss program, home monitoring can also help your doctor more effectively control your blood pressure.

This article is for informational purpose only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical consultation with a qualified professional. The author encourages Internet users to be careful when using medical information obtained from the Internet and to consult your physician if you are unsure about your medical condition.

Dr. Battles has been a principal investigator in several hypertension studies including ALLHAT and has several years of experience treating high blood pressure.

To  buy a blood pressure monitor click here.


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