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Quantifying Myself: Under Pressure

123/80 = blood pressure at 4:46 pm.
June 20, 2011

In addition to recording activity and calories, the Fitbit provides an online dashboard to manually record weight, blood pressure, glucose levels, and other factors. Because I would frequently look at my dashboard throughout the day, I found myself recording my blood pressure much more regularly. (Thanks to a family history of hypertension, I have a blood pressure monitor at both home and work. But I typically forget to use it for months. And when I have a doctor’s appointment, I invariably forget to bring the written record.)

Fitbit users can track various personal metrics on their Fitbit home page.

On the negative side, the Fitbit’s graph of blood pressure data is fairly low-resolution and would be difficult to share with my doctor. And I couldn’t find a way to get the raw data or create a more meaningful printout. So for blood pressure tracking, I ultimately switched over to MedHelp, an online tool that lets you track a multitude of health trends, such as mood, pain, and ovulation, in a higher-resolution graph. Medhelp can be set to send e-mail reminders to update your chosen tracker daily, weekly, or monthly. (A downside to MedHelp’s blood pressure tracker: it doesn’t allow you to record multiple readings for a single day.)

The MedHelp blood pressure tracker produces a higher-resolution graph that I think will be more useful for my doctor.

By more closely monitoring my blood pressure, I discovered the significant effect that medications can have. Taking ibuprofen for back pain consistently boosts it by 10 or more points. The increases were linked specifically to the medication, rather than to the level of pain. Ibuprofen and other NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) have previously been linked to hypertension, but I didn’t know that. I hope I will be able to track these kinds of changes more closely with Withings’s new Wi-Fi enabled blood pressure monitor, which recently went on the market in Europe.

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