As a Rolling Strong CDL Wellness Coach, part of my mission when working with drivers is to ensure that they are in good health to pass the DOT medical exam with a 2 year card (when possible). In order to pass the exam, a driver must have a blood pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg or lower. Some drivers may be struggling with high blood pressure and do not even realize it until it comes time for their exam. Other drivers keep an eye on blood pressure by using a self-administered health check station or seeing an onsite coach at their company’s terminal. Even though they have taken the time to check their numbers, they may not do it regularly and might not realize that their blood pressure is too high until it is too late to do anything about it.
High blood pressure does not always show itself through symptoms, which has earned it the nickname of “the silent killer.” Knowing your numbers is very important so that you can take action before the issue is out of control. So how do you accomplish this as a busy over-the-road driver? Self-monitoring with your own blood pressure cuff may be the best option for you!
There are many benefits to owning your own blood pressure cuff and using it regularly. For one, you can rule out the possibility of hypertension due to “white coat syndrome” by having the ability to take your own readings in the comfort of your truck or home. Additionally, if you have already been diagnosed with hypertension, research suggests that monitoring your own blood pressure causes you to be more involved in your care and raises your chances of following other behaviors, such as taking medication properly.
If you decide you want to start self-monitoring, the first step is to find a validated blood pressure monitor. The American Heart Association recommends an automatic, cuff-style, bicep (upper arm) monitor. Wrist and finger monitors are not recommended because they provide less reliable readings. You can ask your doctor or pharmacist which validated cuff they would recommend. Make sure it is the right size for you by measuring your upper arm for reference. It may be helpful to bring your cuff to your next appointment to have your doctor check that you are using it correctly and compare readings to the clinic’s equipment.
Remember, one blood pressure measurement is like snapshot. It only tells you what your blood pressure is at that moment. With your own cuff, you can take readings over time to gain a “time-lapse” perspective. Keep a log that tracks the date, time of day, and the blood pressure reading for your records. To avoid a falsely elevated reading do not smoke at least 30 minutes before, empty your bladder, sit with both feet on the floor and your back supported and avoid talking or chewing gum during the reading. Stay on top of your readings and don’t let your health roll away from you!