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Is Self-Monitoring Vitals Effective for Chronic Disease Management?

Guest Post from ViveHealth.com


Having a chronic condition, especially one that doesn’t present the same from patient to patient, and with symptoms that flare up sporadically and in perplexing ways, is exhausting even to the most determined person hellbent on figuring out what is causing their mystery symptoms.


One way to maintain a semblance of control, relieve stress and anxiety, and even catch changes in condition or signs of infection at an early stage, is to self-monitor vitals at home. It sounds much more medically involved than it really is.


Don’t worry!


You don’t have to be a doctor to accurately read and understand your blood pressure, pulse rate, and O2 levels. All you need are a couple of simple tools and a little bit of knowledge.


Continue reading to see for yourself!


Blood Pressure Monitor


Even for those without a condition that affects their blood pressure, like hypertension, a blood pressure monitor can be a valuable device. There is a reason that every doctor’s visit begins with a blood pressure reading. Blood pressure levels are a frontline reflection of your overall health.


High blood pressure means your heart is working extra hard to pump blood around your body, and this could mean you are in danger, retaining fluids, or overworking your heart and arteries.


A low blood pressure could indicate blood is not circulating fast enough and thus not distributing vital nutrients and oxygen to your organs, muscles, and brain. You may be dehydrated, fighting an infection, or something even worse.


Luckily, blood pressure monitors come in all shapes and sizes and can be purchased online or over the counter in any pharmacy. While nurses and medical professionals still tout the original pressure cuff with dial and stethoscope for reading an accurate blood pressure, advancements in technology-powered digital arm and wrist cuff monitors have come a long way and are pretty reliable.


How to Pick the Right Blood Pressure Monitor  


You want to find one that fits the circumference of your arm or wrist and is easy for you to use. Digital monitors run on battery and, in addition to telling your systolic and diastolic blood pressures, will typically give you your heart rate and keep a digital memory of your recent readings.


Follow the directions on the box about how to take your blood pressure reading (i.e. sitting down, feet flat, hand raised to your heart), and keep a regular log of your readings to form a baseline for yourself.


A normal blood pressure will be around 120/80—the top number (systolic) measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats, and the bottom number (diastolic) measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart is at rest.


Don’t worry if your blood pressure is lower than 120/80. Some people naturally run low, however, when it drops below 90/60, action should be taken. High blood pressure is considered dangerous and actionable when it edges up to 140/90.


Pulse Oximeter


If you’ve been to the hospital, you’ll remember a ‘pulse oximeter’ as the wide clip with the red light that was slipped onto your finger and made you look like E.T. Pulse oximeters are small devices that read your pulse rate and oxygen saturation levels in seconds.



Those with chronic illness know that in addition to the wear and tear on the body, the side effects of various medicines can have some funky and not-so-welcome consequences.


One thing medical providers are typically most concerned with is shallow or labored breathing that affects your oxygen intake. This can indicate things like heart trouble, organ failure, or respiratory obstruction, to name a few.


A pulse oximeter gives you a quick reading of your blood oxygen saturation (the amount of oxygen your blood is carrying compared to how much it’s capable of carrying) to let you know if you are or aren’t getting enough oxygen. Too little oxygen can make you dizzy, confused, and even pass out, and quickly affect your heart, brain, and other organs.


How to Pick the Right Pulse Oximeter


How do you choose the best pulse oximeter for you?


You want to find one that is small, light, and portable with easy-to-use buttons and large display surfaces. You can find them online as well, or in pharmacies, sometimes even with a doctor’s prescription, if your condition calls for it.


Ideal oxygen saturation is between 95 to 100 percent, while levels below 92 percent will call for alarm. Typically, taking a few deep breaths helps get the levels back up unless you are in distress, in which case, medical attention is required right away.


While disease might slightly alter this number, an average pulse rate is around 60 to 80 beats per minute.


Isn’t Monitoring My Vitals Overkill?


That’s up to you.


Logging a daily record of your blood pressure and pulse rate will help you set a baseline for what’s normal as far as ‘your vitals’ are concerned. If you wake up one day suddenly feeling dizzy, weak, or simply not right, you might find solace in checking your vitals and knowing at least your blood pressure is normal and your oxygen levels are good, so your critical bodily functions should be OK.


Monitoring vitals can also prevent trips to the hospital.


Take Mary, who has MS. She wasn’t feeling so well one day, congestion and confusion, and in taking her blood pressure, found it was quite low for her. After upping her fluid intake and checking her O2, she checked her blood pressure an hour later, but she experienced no change.



With a history of pneumonia, Mary knew she could either go to the hospital, or she could call her doctor and ask for a mobile chest X-ray order to be administered by her home health agency.


She chose the latter.


Her doctor was able to read the X-ray and order antibiotics, as well as increase home health nurse visits from once per week to twice a week. No exhausting trip to the hospital and no outrageous bill.


Self-monitoring and quick, simple action helped Mary take control of her health. It could help you, too!

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