Well, yesterday I was hooked up for my 24 hour (ambulatory) blood pressure monitoring. What they use looks like a standard blood pressure cuff, with a small box attached to it by a long stretch of rubber tubing. The box houses a small pump and some electronics to do the data logging. It’s powered by 3xAA batteries. The nurse strapped the cuff around my left bicep, and routed the tubing up to the back of my neck, holding it in place with some adhesive tape. The box then went in a pouch on a belt, with the tubing being routed from my neck to the box.
The system is designed to take your blood pressure automatically every 30 minutes through the day, and every hour during the night (midnight to 7am). In my case this turned out to be a fairly painful process, because the box clearly doesn’t seem to appreciate its own strength. And this thing has a grip like a vice — a big engineering vice. After the first hour or two I was starting to watch the clock, and bracing myself in readiness for the next instalment … which of course doesn’t help, because when you’re tense, it has to constrict the cuff more to overcome the tensed muscles. This went on through the evening without too many problems, but trying to sleep with this thing was no fun – for me or my wife. Every hour it would burst into life, and start noisily pumping air into the cuff. Which would wake my wife. Then, a few seconds later, as the cuff started to bite, I would wake up too.
We didn’t sleep much last night.
Somehow I made it through work today with this thing biting me every 30 minutes or so, though by lunchtime I was in a pretty bad mood. Apologies to anyone from work who might happen to ever read this. So it was with considerable relief that at 5pm this evening I went back to the doctors, and had it removed and the data extracted from it. I’ve an appointment with the doctor to discuss the results in about a week, so all I have at the moment is the summary from the practice nurse, who was good enough to let me see the data, and showed me my blood test results (and helped interpret them!) too. Although I’m no expert its clear that there are some mixed messages in there.
The blood work was generally pretty good. My liver and kidney function is fine, and I’m not diabetic. My cholesterol balance is good in terms of the proportions (plenty of good cholesterol, not too much bad cholesterol) but the overall amount is elevated, at 6.84. Apparently the figure they aim for is 5.00, though they’ll give you a bit more leeway if you’re otherwise healthy. My high blood pressure means I don’t get any leeway, so I can see my diet becoming more restricted by the minute.
The blood pressure monitoring was less good. My average waking BP was 163/113, which is well up on previous measurements. But my sleeping BP is actually very good, and almost normal at 129/82. The nurse hadn’t seen such a wide variance between waking and sleeping measurements before. My 24 hour average is 151/94 … which is possibly a little better than my previous measurements. So, I guess I’ll have to wait to see how the doctor interprets it, but at the moment I figure I need to lose some weight, lower my cholesterol, and (I suspect) see what I can do to lower my stress levels at work.
So that’s going to be easy then …