Getting the Most from Your Lark for High Blood Pressure

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Do you have High Blood Pressure (hypertension)? If you do, you are among the one-third of American adults who also have it. Barely over half of Americans with diagnosed hypertension have it under control, and that is where you can separate yourself from the pack. 

Lark Hypertension Care is your personal hypertension management coach. Through your smartphone, you can get unlimited coaching at any time, day or night, with no appointment needed. Developed by Harvard and Stanford experts in managing blood pressure, the coaching is easy and takes place via text-based conversations. As you commit to controlling your blood pressure with Lark, here are some ways you can get more from Lark.

 

Understand High Blood Pressure (Hypertension).


As you embark on your Lark Hypertension Care journey to control your blood pressure, you can better equip yourself for success if you understand what it means to have hypertension, or high blood pressure. 

High blood pressure means the force of the blood against your blood vessels is higher than normal. Two numbers are reported: systolic over diastolic. Systolic is higher; it is the blood pressure when your heart contracts to push blood through the arteries. Diastolic is lower; it is the pressure when your heart relaxes between beats. These are the cut-offs for normal, elevated, and high blood pressure according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

Categories of Blood Pressure 1
Systolic Diastolic
Normal
≤ 120 mm Hg
AND
<80 mm Hg
Elevated
120-129 mm Hg
AND
<80 mm Hg
Hypertension Stage 1
130-139 mm Hg
OR
80-89 mm Hg
Hypertension Stage 2
≤ 140 mm Hg
OR
≤ 90 mm Hg

Most people with hypertension do not feel any symptoms, but that is deceiving. Uncontrolled hypertension is considered the leading modifiable cause of death worldwide. It puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke, which are the first and fifth-leading causes of death in the U.S., respectively. One-quarter of hypertension patients have diabetes, and 1 in 7 have chronic kidney disease.

Now, for the good news. Hypertension is considered a “modifiable” risk factor. That means you can change its course with your own actions. And that is exactly what Lark Hypertension can help you do.

 

Get Started Right.


If Lark is going to be your personal coach, it only makes sense for you to get started on the right foot. Introduce yourself to your Lark coach by filling out your profile the first time you enter the app. 

After getting your account and profile set, you can start a conversation with your Lark coach and follow the prompts. Take your time and let Lark guide you through the initiation because this can make your program more successful.

  1. Set up your blood pressure information. You can let Lark know if your doctor has recommended that you monitor your blood pressure, and choose which reminders you want for measuring your blood pressure each day. 

  2. Set up your medication information. You can enter up to four medications at a time.. 

  3. Lark will ask if you want to set a goal for weight loss. If you are overweight, losing weight can lower blood pressure. Go to settings > coaching preferences.

You can always update these items later in your settings so Lark always knows your current information regarding medications, blood pressure monitoring, and weight loss.

Be sure to enable notifications and allow Lark to access your phone’s health data so Lark can automatically track activity that is caught by your phone’s motion sensor.

 

Control Your Weight.


One aspect of Lark’s program is losing weight or preventing weight gain, and for good reason: obesity is a major risk factor for hypertension. In fact, half of people with hypertension have obesity. If you are obese, your risk for hypertension is over twice your risk if you have a normal “healthy” weight. Each pound you lose can lead to about an 0.5 mm Hg decrease in systolic blood pressure.

 

Small Changes

Lark can help you lose weight safely, effectively, and permanently. The trick is not fad diets or rapid weight loss. The trick is small changes to create long-lasting habits. Lark might suggest, for example:

  • Ordering a side salad with light dressing on the side instead of fries.

  • Having an open-faced sandwich instead of both slices of bread.

  • Swapping unsweetened whole-grain cereal for granola.

  • Having fresh fruit instead of juice or dried fruit.

  • Cutting your dessert in half and having extra fruit instead.

  • Having water instead of a soda.

  • Trimming fat from meat and skin from poultry before cooking it.

These are small changes that can add up to real results. 

 

Weight Tracking

Lark can help you monitor your progress towards your goal weight. Just enter your current weight each week or when your Lark coach prompts you, and get feedback on your weight. You may notice a nice link between weight loss and lower blood pressure.

 

Get Active.


All kinds of research studies support physical activity as a way to lower blood pressure. You can see a decrease of as much as 14 mm Hg systolic blood pressure when you meet recommendations for physical activity. Lark Hypertension Care includes coaching on physical activity and suggests ways to get it in regularly. 

 

Types of Activity

Aerobic activity is the core of many people’s exercise programs. It includes activities such as brisk walking, running, bicycling, using the stair climber or elliptical trainer, kickboxing, and rowing. Some people think strength training raises blood pressure, but it actually has the opposite effect. Aim to hit each muscle group a few times each week. Whatever you do, make it fun so you keep doing it.

 

Amount and Frequency

The recommendation for aerobic activity is to get 90 to 150 minutes per week. You can also aim for another few sessions of strength training each week. It can be hard to find the time to get in your recommended workouts, but Lark can suggest ways to squeeze them in. 

How often do you need to get moving? To keep blood pressure down, you should exercise every day when possible because the effects last about 24 hours. Be sure to keep your phone on you so Lark detects your motion, and also update your workouts in the app.

 

Eat Right.


Nutrition for blood pressure goes beyond how much you weigh. Your food choices affect blood pressure, and Lark is on top of it! Your personalized nutrition program is backed by nutrition and hypertension experts and incorporates the latest and most convincing research on food and blood pressure.

 

Sodium and Potassium

Sodium raises blood pressure, and potassium lowers it. Most people eat too much sodium, and not enough potassium. Lark Hypertension Care guides you in reducing sodium intake and increasing potassium intake by making small changes. 

  • Reduce highly processed and salty foods.

  • Limit salt that you add at the table.

  • Increase fruit and vegetables.

  • Eat more dairy products and fish.

By hitting goals for sodium and potassium, you could lower your systolic blood pressure by up to 11 mm Hg!

Lark Sodium
 

DASH

Lark’s nutrition coaching is consistent with Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH). In a remarkable clinical trial, following DASH eating patterns led to dramatic reductions in blood pressure within a few weeks. It could lower your blood pressure by 11 mm Hg!

Compared to the average U.S. diet, DASH is:

In case you are wondering, DASH is also good for blood sugar, weight control, and heart health. 

No worries if you avoid dairy or are on a gluten-free diet. While these foods may be part of a strict DASH diet, Lark Hypertension is able to coach you based on your dietary preferences or needs.

You have the power to control your blood pressure!
Behavior Choice Approximate Reduction in Systolic Blood Pressure
Weight loss of 1 kg if overweight
1 mm Hg
Increasing potassium intake
5 mm Hg
Lowering sodium intake
6 mm Hg
Following a DASH-style eating pattern
11 mm Hg
Achieving 150 minutes per week of aerobic activity
5 mm Hg
Achieving strength training recommendations
9 mm Hg
 

Take Your Medications.


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Open Lark. Go to Settings > Coaching Preferences.

Taking medications may sound simple, but only about half of hypertensive patients take their medications exactly as prescribed. That is a shame, because not taking hypertensive medications leads to a 50 to 80% higher risk of death[1]. On the other hand, patients with hypertension who take medications as prescribed have on average fewer days in the hospital and annual medical costs of $4,337 less compared to non-adherent patients.[2]

Lark Hypertension Care helps with medications when you tell your coach what you are taking and when to take them. Forgetfulness is a major barrier to taking medications, and Lark can provide reminders as well as tracking so you know how you are doing.

 

Monitor Your Blood Pressure.


Self-monitoring of blood pressure is another major component of Lark Hypertension Care. The AHA recommends it[3] and your doctor may, too. Remember that hypertension rarely has symptoms, so you will not be able to feel how your blood pressure is doing. These are some other reasons to measure your blood pressure regularly at home.

  • It can keep you on your toes and provide motivation to keep working to control your blood pressure.

  • It lets you see patterns. Together with Lark, you might notice that eating more fruit lowers blood pressure or that blood pressure is higher if you skip a dose of medication.

  • It may lead to better blood pressure control.

After you set up your blood pressure monitoring schedule in Lark, you can get reminders to measure your blood pressure. Lark will give you the occasional reminder to follow good practices so your measurements can be accurate! For example:

  • Follow the instructions on your blood pressure monitor.

  • Do it at the same time or times each day so you can compare measurements.

  • Sit quietly in a comfortable position for 5 minutes before you check.

  • Have your arm on a table and your feet uncrossed.

 

Let Lark Be Your Guide.


Lark Hypertension Care offers you unlimited coaching backed by experts in hypertension, diet and exercise, and behavior change. Take advantage! Use Lark more often to get more personalized coaching and to stay motivated.

Keep your phone on you so Lark can help you even more. You will want to respond as fast as you can to notifications, such as a reminder to check blood pressure or take medications, or to log a meal or get active if you have been sitting for a long time.

The value of Lark Hypertension Care is that when you follow Lark’s lead, you can get all sorts of benefits for your blood pressure. 

  • The holistic program helps with sleep and stress management - two aspects of overall well-being that may impact blood pressure. 

  • Lark tells you when your blood pressure reading is out of range and you may want to contact your healthcare provider.

  • With tracking, Lark lets you know if your blood pressure has been climbing or falling recently so you can know how you are doing.

Blood pressure is an important risk factor to manage, and Lark Hypertension Care is ready to help you manage it. What you do matters for your blood pressure, and your Lark coach can help you take control.


 
 

References

  1.  Health and Human Services. Improving medication adherence among patients with hypertension: A tip sheet for health care professionals. Updated February 2017. 

  2.  Roebuck MC, Liberman JN, Toyama MG, Brennan TA. Medication Adherence Leads To Lower Health Care Use And Costs Despite Increased Drug Spending. 2011. Health Affairs. 

  3.  2017 ACC/AHA/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/AGS/APhA/ASH/ASPC/NMA/PCNA Guideline for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults: A Report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2018;71:e127-e248