We all know the sensation of having the doctor wrap a blood pressure monitor around our arms. Half of the time we’re not paying attention, only stopping to say, “ooh”, the moment the grip tightens and it feels like the circulation is being cut off from the rest of our body.
The doctor then says a couple of numbers out loud and proceeds with the consultation. But what, exactly, was the doctor talking about? Most of the time we pay no attention to having our blood pressure taken, and see it as a routine part of a regular checkup or when we tell the doctor we feel like something wrong is happening in our bodies.
But high pressure – or hypertension – affects one in five Aussies over the age of 18, and given that the condition can lead to heart attack, heart disease and stroke, it’s important that your doctor takes a reading and, if he finds that you suffer from hypertension, directs you toward blood pressure monitor reviews so you can pick up an in-home model.
With all this in mind, here are some answers to some of the questions you may have asked in your head after the doc’s reading, but failed to ask during the actual consultation:
- What is blood pressure?
It is the measurement of the force of blood on your arteries.
- Is hypertension dangerous?
Hypertension puts extra stress on your arteries and heart. This, over time, can lead to further health problems, including:
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Sexual dysfunction
- Vision loss
- How can I take a reading?
A measurement is taken with two factors: diastolic (when the heart is filling) and systolic (when the heart contracts). When your doctor requests to take a reading, they will say a “number over number”, with the first number being systolic and the diastolic. You may even see a symbol of “mm Hg” or mmHg” next to your reading once the doctor has completed it. This symbol indicates the millimetre of mercury and it is the unit with which the measurement is taken.
- How can I tell if my reading is too high?
This isn’t an easy question to answer, as there are a variety of factors that define whether your reading is considered safe for you specifically. These factors include age, history, family health and even race and gender.
Certain risk factors are out of our power and are considered when determining what a safe reading is for us specifically. Your doctor will typically say that a healthy level is for the systolic number to rest below 120 and the diastolic number to rest below 80.
- How can I manage my levels?
There are numerous ways to keep your levels balanced in your everyday life. As aforementioned, there are certain factors that are out of our control, but following a few healthy lifestyle habits can work wonders when it comes to balancing out your levels.
You may have to alter some of these lifestyle factors if you are concerned about your levels:
- High sodium intake
- Low potassium intake
- Being obese or overweight
- High cholesterol
- High stress
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Excessive alcohol consumption
There are also a range of pre-existing medical conditions that may alter your readings. Your doctor may consult with your regarding any of the above factors if they notice changes in your readings, and they may request that you make certain lifestyle changes to return to healthier levels.