Blood Pressure/ High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
What is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the force exerted against the walls of your blood vessels when blood is being pumped from the heart. This same force also keeps blood constantly moving throughout the body.
When the heart contracts, blood pressure rises- this measurement is called the systolic blood pressure, and when the heart relaxes, blood pressure drops- this measurement is called the diastolic blood pressure. When a blood pressure reading is taken, it consists of these two numbers, expressed in millimetres of Mercury (mmHg). An ideal blood pressure reading is: 120/80 mmHg (stated as “120 over 80”).
Ever wonder what those numbers really mean? The top number (Systolic), and the bottom number (Diastolic), are a measure of your heart health. When your heart beats, it forces blood through the rest of your body; this force creates pressure on the arteries (systolic blood pressure). Normal is considered 120, or lower. When the heart rests between beats, the force in the arteries is also measured; this is called the diastolic blood pressure, and normal is considered 80 or less.
Did you know
that you can always check your Blood Pressure, using the Blood Pressure Kiosk at Walsh’s Pharmacy?
What is High Blood Pressure?
It’s normal for blood pressure to go up and down over the course of the day, but if it stays up, there is every likelihood that you have high blood pressure. When blood pressure is high on a sustained basis, damage is done to the blood vessels, heart and kidneys. This can lead to heart attack, stroke, or other problems. Blood pressure is considered high at 140/90 (stated as “140 over 90”), or higher.
If your top number (Systolic Blood Pressure) is 140, or more- you may have high blood pressure, regardless of the bottom number
If your bottom number (Diastolic Blood Pressure) is 90, or more- you may have high blood pressure, regardless of the top number. See Chart below.
Who can develop High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)?
High blood pressure (hypertension) affects more than 17% of Canadians, or nearly 6 million people, with about 30% of those over the age of 17. In half of those with high blood pressure, the disease is dangerous, and can lead to conditions that can cause death or cripple such as a heart attack, stroke or kidney failure.
What causes High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure (hypertension) is excessive pressure exerted by blood against the walls of the arteries, and while concrete evidence on what causes high blood pressure has not been determined, it is known that certain factors contribute to this excessive pressure.
Most, not all but most of these factors can be controlled with effort, and may include such factors as:
Smoking which is probably the best known cause of high blood pressure. Nicotine speeds up the heart rate and been shown to constrict blood vessels;
Diet- Too much fat and cholesterol negatively impact blood pressure;
Exercise- Regular exercise can help to keep blood pressure at a normal level;
Salt- People who consume a lot of salt (sodium) may develop high blood pressure, but it can also be reduced by reducing high sodium content foods (read the label);
Stress- Excessive stress can contribute to high blood pressure.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure shows no clear-cut symptoms or outward signs, and it is entirely possible to have it and not know it. It does not make you feel sick, dizzy, or nervous. Consequently, many people with high blood pressure can live for years without knowing they have it. But all the while, continuing damage is being done to their bodies, which is why it is so important to have blood pressure checked on a regular basis.
Walsh’s Pharmacy blood pressure kiosk available in-store, can be used regularly to check your blood pressure, and provides a good bench mark prior to visiting with a primary health care provider. It by no means replaces checking your numbers with your health care provider.
As mentioned, blood pressure readings can vary significantly throughout the day. Generally speaking blood pressure readings are highest when we are active or stressed, and lower when we are resting and calm (or sleeping).
Some individuals, however, have a pre-disposition to high blood pressure- a higher level of stress, for example, is natural for some people. Lifestyle can also influence blood pressure, with such things as diet, caffeine, alcohol, smoking and certain medications causing an increase in blood pressure and bringing on the effects of hypertension.
The following standards have been established by the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) for blood pressure readings:
Normal Borderline High
139 or less 140-159 160 or higher
89 or less 90-95 95 and higher
If blood pressure is high, treatment prescribed by your primary health care practitioner must be followed.
What are the Management Options?
To avoid high blood pressure, take short walks at lunchtime, or light reading just before bed can also be helpful in reducing stress. And while easier said than done, changing a hectic lifestyle to one that is a little simpler, or developing a more balanced diet can help to lower the risk. Anyone can have high blood pressure, but the incidence is greater in those who are overweight, taking birth control pills, or have a family history of hypertension.
But once high blood pressure (hypertension) has been diagnosed, it should be treated with medication and/or lifestyle changes (or both). And once under control, regular blood pressure checks are recommended.
For many of us, blood pressure measurements taken at our doctor’s office may be the only opportunity we have to know our blood pressure readings. However, blood pressure measured in a doctor’s office may produce elevated results due to the anxiety or apprehension of being in the doctor’s office in the first place.
You can regularly take your blood pressure readings at Walsh’s Pharmacy using the free blood pressure kiosk located at the back of the store adjacent to the dispensary. If you have questions about the readings, you can ask one of our dispensary associates, or pharmacists, to assist you.
Taking your blood pressure at home reduces the effects of most outside influences, and also helps to supplement the doctor’s office readings. The two combined may provide a more complete and accurate blood pressure history both yourself and your health care team.
The use of home blood pressure monitors is growing as patient/consumer awareness increases, and whether they are electronic, manual or self-inflating, they are fast, uncomplicated and accurate. These home blood pressure machines do not require any specialized training or measuring techniques. Walsh’s Pharmacy carries a broad range of blood pressure monitors and can suggest an appropriate blood pressure monitor, together with training in its use. You can ask for a demonstration on your next visit.
Health & Lifestyle…
we are always available to discuss any health-related questions or concerns you may have. See your pharmacist at Walsh’s Pharmacy today.