High Blood Pressure: Keeping Hypertension in Check

High blood pressure can be controlled but not cured. Learn how to manage this disease.

Blood pressure is the force generated as your heart pumps blood and moves it through the blood vessels in your body. When measured, the reading is made up of two numbers called the systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

What is Hypertension?

Systolic blood pressure is the pressure while the heart is beating. A normal systolic blood pressure is 140mmHg or below. Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure when the heart is resting between beats. A normal diastolic blood pressure is 90mmHg or below. Blood pressure that stays persistently above this level is considered high; this condition is known as high blood pressure or hypertension.

Causes and Symptoms of Hypertension

In most patients, the cause of high blood pressure is not clear. However, you are at risk of high blood pressure if you:
Are overweight
Eat too much salt
Regularly consume large quantities of alcohol
Do not have enough exercise
Are constantly under stress
Have a family history of high blood pressure
Are 40 years old or older
Have certain medical problems such as kidney diseases

People with high blood pressure usually do not feel unwell. Many people only discover they have high blood pressure during routine medical examination. If you haven't had your blood pressure checked in a while, it may be wise to make an appointment now.

Dangers of High Blood Pressure

Hypertension can be dangerous if not controlled and can lead to serious diseases such as heart attack, stroke and kidney failure.

It is a lifelong disease — but it can be controlled by:
Eating sensibly
Reducing your salt and fat intake
Reducing your calorie and sugar intake
Reducing your alcohol intake
Exercising regularly and losing weight
Quitting smoking
Keeping stress under control
Taking your medicines regularly
Keeping up with your doctor’s appointments
Monitoring your blood pressure regularly

Monitoring Your Blood Pressure 

Blood-pressure monitoring is simple and can be done conveniently at home using one of the several home blood-pressure monitoring devices available on the market. These devices are battery-operated and relatively easy to use. Your pharmacist can help you choose a device that best suits your needs and advise you on the appropriate techniques for measuring your blood pressure at home.

How to Monitor Your Blood Pressure

1. Sit comfortably in a chair with your elbow and forearm resting on a flat surface.
2. Attach the blood pressure monitor cuff to your upper arm. Be careful that there is no difference in height between the cuff and your heart. Place a cushion or pillow to adjust to the correct height should there be a difference.
3. Switch on the power to the blood pressure monitor.
4. Inflate the monitor cuff manually or by pressing the "On" button on the monitor.
5. Record the blood pressure reading from the monitor screen in your notebook, making sure you include the date when the reading is taken.
6. Show your doctor your blood pressure readings at your next appointment.

Tips When Measuring Blood Pressure

Your blood pressure readings may be higher than normal under the following conditions: 
After exercise or performing a physically strenuous activity
After a heavy meal, after drinking coffee or after smoking a cigarette 
When you are anxious, nervous or upset 
When you are in a hurry

Therefore, always try to take your blood pressure when you are relaxed or when you have rested for approximately 15 minutes after any strenuous physical activity. Be sure to include in your notes any reason(s) which you think may affect your blood pressure reading.

Try to measure your blood pressure at about the same time every day, as blood pressure readings may be slightly different at different times of the day. 

Blood pressure readings are lower when measured when you are in an upright position, compared to when you are lying down. So, be sure that your posture is correct when you measure your blood pressure. 

Different blood pressure monitors may give slightly different readings. Furthermore, these readings may not be the same as those obtained by your doctor. 

High Blood Pressure Treatment

High blood pressure is a silent killer. It is important for you to follow the plan that your doctor has created for you. Remember to keep up with your appointments so that your doctor can assess and monitor your condition and recommend any other actions when necessary.
High blood pressure medication works only when it is taken regularly as directed. Therefore, you should follow the instructions and take your medication at the same time of the day. Never stop taking your medications without your doctor's consent; stopping them can cause a sudden, life-threatening increase in your blood pressure. 

The Importance of High Blood Pressure Medication

Untreated hypertension can lead to a variety of complications, including heart disease and stroke. The risk of these conditions increases as blood pressure rises above 110/75mmHg, which is still in the healthy range.

In multiple studies of people with hypertension, those who were given blood pressure-lowering medications for four to five years had a significant reduction in the number of coronary events, stroke, and death compared to those who did not receive treatment.

First on the list of treatment methods is usually simple lifestyle changes such as:
Weight loss in those who are overweight or obese
Avoiding excess alcohol intake and stopping smoking

Hypertension Medications

Antihypertensive medication is usually recommended when the blood pressure is consistently at or above 140/90mmHg. Treatment with medication is recommended at a lower blood pressure (usually 130/80mmHg) for people with diabetes or chronic kidney disease.

Read these next: 
Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitoring


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