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More Than a Measurement: Hypertension

More Than a Measurement: Hypertension

When you are diagnosed with Hypertension (also known as high blood pressure), you may feel your life has been changed with just two numbers: your systolic and diastolic blood pressure measurements. At A&D Medical, we understand that these measurements are just a small part of who you are. To ensure your health, you must monitor and manage your blood pressure.  But the good news is, as you do, you’ll be empowered to make decision that can improve the bigger part of your life - the parts that matter most to you.

What is hypertension?

Hypertension, often referred to as high blood pressure, is a serious condition that can lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, and other health problems.  

According to the most recent guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA), Stage 1 Hypertension is when your Systolic pressure is 130mmHg or higher, or your Diastolic pressure is 80mmHg or higher.  

Under the new AHA guidelines, 46% of U.S. adults are now considered hypertensive, but the change isn’t necessarily a bad thing – even though it sounds like it on the surface.  According to the AHA, “the guidelines recommend earlier intervention to prevent further increases in blood pressure and the complications of hypertension.”  And we’re all for preventing complications!

If you are concerned about hypertension and have not been diagnosed, the first step is to see your doctor.  They’ll start by taking your blood pressure, and they’ll let you know if more tests are necessary to confirm the diagnosis.  

What causes hypertension?

Hypertension is when the pressure, or force, of blood pushing against your arteries is higher than ideal measurements.  The jury is still out on what specifically causes hypertension, but some believe that it is caused by a narrowing or hardening of your arteries, or as a result of other medical conditions.

Blood pressure readings can also be affected by other environmental factors, such as your stress level, foods you may have eaten, exercise, and even the changes in seasons.  

What’s important to know about hypertension?

Your blood pressure consists of two numbers: systolic and diastolic pressure.  Systolic pressure measures the pressure of blood against artery walls when the heart pumps blood out during a heartbeat – essentially, when the arteries are under their greatest stress.  Diastolic pressure measures the same pressure between heartbeats, just this time when the heart is filling with blood.  

Hypertension is a serious condition because it can be related to so many other issues; that is why you should manage your health with your doctor.  Many people with hypertension have had heart failure or a stroke in the past, while others are also managing chronic conditions, such as diabetes, obesity, kidney disease, and more.  

How does hypertension affect most people?

Hypertension is often called the silent killer because it can often be hard to detect by yourself based on a short list of symptoms.  For example, one myth many people believe is that they will become flushed or experience nervousness or sweating if they have hypertension.  

Instead, the best and most accurate way to know if you have hypertension is to have a healthcare professional make that clinical diagnosis and provide a complete treatment plan.  

While you are discussing your treatment plan, your doctor will tell you what to do in emergency situations, such as hypertensive crisis, or what to do if you’re unsure if you are experiencing an emergency.

Why does monitoring your blood pressure help you control hypertension?

Many doctors will prescribe home monitoring for patients with high blood pressure.  The reason for this is two-fold:

  • You will begin to see trends emerge and be able to understand what causes your blood pressure to go up or down.  For example, if your blood pressure is consistently high in the mornings, your doctor may want to adjust your medication schedule or dosage
  • If you see something unusual in your readings, you’ll know to give your doctor a call.  For example, if your blood pressure is normally 135/85, if it is 150/90 one day, you might be instructed to phone the office.

In fact, many doctors are now recommending using Bluetooth connected blood pressure monitors for home monitoring.  This allows you to not only easily track and note trends in your blood pressure logs, but you can email the logs to them for review.  Talk to your doctor about the advantages of home blood pressure monitoring, and connected blood pressure monitors, at your next appointment.  

What else can you do to control hypertension?

Your doctor may prescribe lifestyle changes (diet and/or activity), medications, or a number of other things to control your hypertension.  The most important thing, though, is to always ask your doctor if you’re unsure about trying something new.  

Check out our blog posts on topics designed to help you manage your blood pressure:

Other frequently asked questions about hypertension

What is mmHg?

Denoted either as “mmHg” or “mm Hg”, it stands for millimeters of mercury (Hg), and it is the measurement unit used to measure blood pressure.  One mmHg is the pressure exerted by a 1mm column of mercury.  mmHg is often used in pressure gages, even though mercury is used infrequently today.   

Why does my blood pressure reading change?

Blood pressure is affected by many factors: age, weight, time of day, activity level, climate, altitude and season. Certain activities can significantly alter one’s blood pressure. Walking can raise systolic pressure by 12 mmHg and diastolic pressure by 5.5 mmHg. Sleeping can decrease systolic blood pressure by as much as 10 mmHg. Taking your blood pressure repeatedly without waiting an interval of 5 minutes between readings, or without raising your arm to allow blood to flow back to the heart, can also impact the measurement.   

An individual's blood pressure varies greatly (as much as 30 to 50mmHg) from day to day and season to season due to various conditions during the day. For hypersensitive individuals, these variations are even more pronounced.  Normally, blood pressure rises during work or play and falls to its lowest levels during sleep.

In addition to these factors, beverages containing caffeine or alcohol, certain medications, emotional stress and even tight-fitting clothes can make a difference in the readings.  Read more information from the AHA here.

Why are my readings higher at the doctor’s office?

Your blood pressure readings taken in a doctor's office or hospital setting may be elevated as a result of apprehension and anxiety.  This response is known as "white coat hypertension".  

If your doctor believes you have white coat hypertension, they may encourage you to begin monitoring your blood pressure at home.  

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