The force of the blood against the artery walls is what defines your blood pressure. If the pressure is high and left undetected, it can increase your risk for heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and blindness. Remember, it is the disease that develops as a result of the untreated high blood pressure that kills, not the high blood pressure itself, so periodic testing is critically important.
You need to be tested frequently and since it is very simple and convenient, that should not be a problem. You can find free testing machines in grocery stores, pharmacies, and discount stores since they are routinely offered as a convenience for their customers. If unsure how to use them properly, ask at the service desk or pharmacy since there should be employees who are trained to help customers.
Another option is to buy your own monitor which is what many people do for privacy and convenience. Your doctor or pharmacist can suggest a suitable product that will give you accurate information. They should also demonstrate how to use the device correctly.
How To Increase The Accuracy Of The Test:
1. Waiting at least 30 minutes after smoking a cigarette or drinking a cup of coffee because these are factors that will temporarily elevate blood pressure.
2. Anticipation of taking the test, can skew the results by actually raising the blood pressure. Sitting sedately for five minutes before you actually take the test will add to the accuracy of the measurement. The table used should be at the level of your heart during the test, and you should rest your arm on the table, never on your lap. Also, never cross your legs during the test and make sure your back is supported, with your feet flat on the floor.
3. Wearing short sleeves exposes the area for the test making it easier for the health care professional to take the test and may also increase the accuracy.
4. Make sure you have an empty bladder, so be sure you use the bathroom before the test.
5. By taking two readings that are at least two minutes apart and then averaging those results will give the most accurate number and is the protocol which is used by most doctors and nurses.
6. Once the test is over, remember to ask the doctor for actual numbers. Do not settle for comments such as “it is normal” or “seems a little high”. And, always keep your measurements in a log with the date, numbers and approximate test time. It is also a good idea to differentiate between home test and doctor’s office test.
Understanding Blood Pressure Information From The Numbers:
The information an individual gets from the test consists of two distinct measurements. These measurements are what determine whether the blood pressure is normal, prehypertensive or hypertensive. The systolic pressure, or the top number, measures the force of the blood in the arteries as the heart beats and the diastolic pressure is the lower number, which measures the force of the blood in the arteries, as the heart relaxes between beats. The mmHg (means millimeters of mercury) is used for blood pressure testing.
For those of different age groups, the systolic and diastolic numbers are important for different reasons. As an example, those over the age of 50 should be concerned with the systolic or top number because it increases with age. Those under the age of 55 might be more concerned with the lower number, which is the diastolic number because it increases until around 55 years and then it usually declines.
The numbers are broken down into levels from normal to high:
*Normal is considered “less” than 120/80
*Prehypertension is the range of 120/80-139/89
*Hypertension is 140/90 and over
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
The cause of hypertension, in many cases, is unknown. Readings that are normal may become elevated and dangerous without outward signs or symptoms; therefore, it is critical to have periodic measurements taken and tracked overtime. Prehypertension, 120/80-139/89, is at a level where prevention is possible.
With changes in lifestyle such as eating healthy, losing weight, decreasing the intake of salt/sodium, adding physical exercise and stress management techniques, it may be possible to prevent being diagnosed with hypertension. The diagnosis of high blood pressure, 140/90 or higher, is a diagnosis that lasts a lifetime. There is no cure, there is only prevention and control according to the medical association.
Commitment and determination can help change bad health habits into healthy ones. When a person tries to change their lifestyle all at once, they are setting themselves up for “failure”. However, making changes slowly, overtime, can increase the chances for “success” which can be translated into a healthier, happier individual.