Sitting in stop-and-go traffic. Presenting on stage in front of your peers. Stubbing your toe on the edge of the bed. It’s probably safe to say that all of these would cause your blood pressure to skyrocket.
Fortunately, after the incident has ended, your blood pressure will eventually return to normal and you can go about your day.
However, some people suffer from a condition that causes constant high blood pressure even when they aren’t caught in a stressful situation. It’s called hypertension.
Consistently high blood pressure means your blood is putting more force on your blood vessels. Over time, that force can damage your blood vessels and even some organs. The higher your blood pressure and the longer it lasts, the greater the damage.
According to the American Heart Association, hypertension is dubbed a “silent killer,” and for good reason. It can develop gradually over time, so much so that it can take years before you feel symptoms. If left untreated for too long, hypertension could lead to heart attack or stroke, aneurysm, heart failure, vision loss, metabolic syndrome, memory problems or dementia.
Most people don’t have symptoms, but some might experience headaches or shortness of breath. However, these symptoms aren’t specific to hypertension and usually don’t occur until it’s at a severe stage.
So then how can you find out if you have hypertension? The best way is to regularly see your primary care provider. They can accurately measure your blood pressure over time and provide a diagnosis.
The good news is if you do have hypertension, there are ways to manage it, including:
- Lose weight
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a healthy diet low in sodium
- Limit the amount of alcohol you drink
- Quit smoking
- Cut back on caffeine
- Reduce your stress
- Monitor your blood pressure at home and see your doctor regularly
- Take your prescribed medication as directed
You and your provider can work together come up with a customized plan that you can follow.
Taking your blood pressure at home
If your provider diagnoses you with hypertension, they might recommend that you get a blood pressure meter so you can check your blood pressure at home. Your provider can show you how to use it and how to make sure the reading is accurate.
Here are a few tips to help you get started:
Use the correct cuff size. The length of the cuff should cover about two-thirds of the area from your elbow to your shoulder. After you put it on, you shouldn’t be able to fit any more than two fingers between the blood pressure cuff and your arm.
Use the cuff on a bare arm. Remove any sweatshirts or jackets, and roll up your sleeve.
Place the cuff correctly. Put the cuff on your upper arm. The cuff will have an artery marker, and you want to place that marker directly over your brachial artery. (To find the artery, flex your arm. The artery is located just under the curve of your bicep muscle on the inside of your arm). The bottom of the cuff should be about an inch above the bend of your elbow.
Sit correctly. Make sure you sit up straight (you don’t want to lie down for this), with your back and arm supported and cuff at heart level. It’s important to keep your legs uncrossed and feet either flat on the ground or supported by a stool. It’s also important not to talk while your blood pressure is being measured.
For more information click here or or to learn more about your blood pressure make an appointment to see your provider at 218-631-3510.