Blood pressure is the pressure of blood against the walls of your arteries. Persistent elevation of blood pressure increases your risk of thickening the walls of your arteries which can lead to
- heart problems
- kidney disease
High blood pressure readings often has no symptoms, so regular blood pressure checks is the only way to know if a person has high blood pressure.
Why is blood pressure important?
High blood pressure readings is also known as “hypertension”; both words mean the same thing. In a typical adult, a normal blood pressure is considered 120/80mmHg, but this “normal” may vary depending on other medical conditions you may have. If your blood pressure measurement is consistently higher than 140/90mmHg, then you likely have high blood pressure and should consult with your medical provider for further management.
When one’s blood pressure is high it causes strain on the vessels carrying blood around your body. This strain can cause the tissues in these vessels to become thickened or to weaken. As a result, it can lead to narrow blood vessels and possible clogging of these vessels which can cause both acute and long-term damage to the heart and/or brain.
Blood Pressure Readings
Blood pressure tests measure the force of your blood against the walls of your arteries. When these arteries have become thickened or weak high blood pressure results because the force required to continue to pump blood from the heart to the rest of the body is increased.
A blood-pressure reading consists of two numbers. The systolic, or top (larger) number, measures the pressure when your heart has just finished pumping blood into your arteries. The diastolic, or bottom (smaller) number, is the pressure between beats when the heart is relaxed.
Some factors that increase the chance of one having high blood pressure include:
- High blood pressure in the past
- Being overweight
- Age (45 and older for men; 55 and older for women)
- Family history of coronary artery disease and/or fatal heart attack at an early age
Blood pressure is easily checked at your doctor’s office. To test your blood pressure, usually you will be in a seated position, with an arm resting in a bent position so it is at the same level as your heart. The blood pressure cuff is placed on your bare upper arm. If wearing sleeved clothing, your sleeve should be comfortably rolled up and not tight around your arm.
Other “self-testing” methods have become widely available for patients as well which increases convenience and ease of checking blood pressure. You may purchase a home blood pressure monitor at a local pharmacy which allows you to check your blood pressure from home. Many pharmacies now also have automated cuffs in store to use as well. These methods are great to use in addition to seeing your doctor office regularly for blood pressure monitoring.
Blood Pressure Checks Recommended For
As mentioned previously, blood pressure often does not have any symptoms so it is important to have it checked regularly. It is most important to check if you have a history of high blood pressure or previously mentioned risk factors. By doing so, you may decrease the chances of having complications associated with persistent high blood pressure, including long-term heart conditions, kidney disease, or stroke.
If you have high blood pressure, it is important to work closely with your doctor to manage your blood pressure. In some patients, diet and lifestyle changes are appropriate and effective at controlling blood pressure. In others, medication is often necessary to maintain a normal blood pressure.
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