High blood pressure or hypertension is one of the main causative factors in the development of congestive heart failure. As recognition of this factor has increased over the years so has the number of places in which your blood pressure may be screened. Health fairs are popping out in communities which screen individuals for heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Ophthalmologists are now doing blood pressure measurements in their office with each visit. Your primary care physician measures your blood pressure with each visit and even some dentists are now doing blood pressure measurements with teeth cleaning.
Each of these points of service in an individual’s life increases the possibility that if you’re suffering from this silent killer you are more likely to be diagnosed early and violence decrease the number of long-term complications from which you must suffer. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, has no overt signs or symptoms which is why it’s often called the silent killer.
But just taking your blood pressure doesn’t give you the answers you need. Now you need an understanding of what those numbers actually mean to you and your future health. But before you learn what the numbers mean it’s helpful to learn how the numbers are obtained.
Although blood pressure is normally taken in the arm, over the antecubital area (crook of the elbow) it can actually be taken in several different areas of the body. The criteria is that the blood pressure cuff must be able to cut off the blood supply to the artery below it and there must be a way of measuring when the blood starts coming through again.
That is essentially what happens when the nurse takes your blood pressure in the doctor’s office. First the blood pressure cuff is inflated to a point that blood is no longer able to go through the artery. The air is slowly released and the nurse or doctor listens through the stethescope while watching the meter to determine the mm of mercury at which the blood does start going through the artery again.
This is the systolic number, or the top number of the blood pressure measurement. This number represents the highest pressure against which the heart is pumping. The next number is the bottom number, diastolic number, or the lowest amount of pressure in the artery. The nurse or doctor will be able to determine these numbers based on how the blood sounds as it passes through the artery.
Blood pressure readings will fall into four general categories ranging from normal to stage 2 hypertension. To get an accurate reading, especially for those readings over normal, it is important to get at least two readings while you are seated.
The first category is a normal reading that ranges below 120/80. The only recommendations are for people to continue their healthy lifestyle. The next category is prehypertensive when blood pressure is greater than 120/80 but less than 140/90. Physicians will recommend that you adopt a healthier lifestyle to maintain or bring down your blood pressure readings.
Stage 1 hypertension is diagnosed when readings are over 139/89 and less than 160/100. At this stage specific lifestyle changes are recommended and if the readings haven’t gotten to normal in 6 months you must consider taking one or more different medications to lower your pressure.
Stage 2 hypertension is diagnosed when you have a blood pressure reading of 160/100 or greater. At this stage physicians will recommend two or greater medications to control blood pressure as well as weight loss, and healthy lifestyle choices such as eliminating smoking or alcohol and exercise.
Even children and teens should be screened for hypertension but these ranges may be reduced. Be sure you are screened once a year after the age of 20 to catch hypertension early and ensure that you undergo appropriate treatment.
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