Choosing A Home Blood Pressure Monitor
The American Heart Association recommends an automatic, cuff-style, bicep monitor.
- Wrist and finger monitors are not recommended because they yield less reliable readings.
- Choose a monitor that has been validated. If you are unsure, ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice or find options at validatebp.org.
- When selecting a blood pressure monitor for a senior, pregnant woman or child, make sure it is validated for these conditions.
- Make sure the cuff fits measure around your upper arm and choose a monitor that comes with the correct size cuff.
The Difference Between Blood Pressure And Heart Rate
Blood pressure and heart rate are two different measurements. While they are frequently measured at the same time in the doctors office, they are distinctly different factors in heart health.
Blood pressure is the force exerted against the artery walls when blood pumps through the body, usually measured with two numbers. The top number measures the pressure as the heart beats and moves blood into the arteries. The bottom number measures the pressure as the heart relaxes between beats. A blood pressure reading of 120/80 is considered normal.
Heart rate, also called pulse, is the number of times your heart beats per minute. Heart rate can change based on activity level, age, medication, and other factors throughout life. For most adults, a resting heart rate of 50 to 100 beats per minute is considered normal. People who exercise regularly often have lower resting heart rates.
In some situations, such as periods of acute stress or danger, blood pressure and heart rate may both increase at the same time, but thats not always the case. Your heart rate can increase without any change occurring in your blood pressure. As your heart beats faster, healthy blood vessels will expand in size to allow increased blood flow, which helps your blood pressure remain relatively stable. This is often true during exercise, when your heart rate can increase substantially but your blood pressure may only change slightly.
How Can I Control My Blood Pressure
You can often lower your blood pressure by changing your day-to-day habits and by taking medication if needed. Treatment, especially if you have other medical conditions such as diabetes, requires ongoing evaluation and discussions with your doctor.
Lifestyle changes you can make to help prevent and lower high blood pressure:
In addition to recommending lifestyle changes, your doctor will likely prescribe medication to lower your blood pressure to a safe level. Isolated systolic hypertension, the most common form of high blood pressure in older adults, is treated in the same way as regular high blood pressure but may require more than one type of blood pressure medication. You may try several kinds or combinations of medications before finding a plan that works best for you. Medication can control your blood pressure, but it can’t cure it. If your doctor starts you on medication for high blood pressure, you may need to take it long-term.
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What Should I Do If I Have High Blood Pressure
If your healthcare provider has diagnosed you with high blood pressure, they will talk with you about your recommended blood pressure target or goal. They may suggest that you:
- Check your blood pressure regularly with a home blood pressure monitor. These are automated electronic monitors and are available at most pharmacies or online.
- Quit smoking and/or using tobacco products.
- Work on controlling anger and managing stress.
What If Lifestyle Changes Dont Help Lower My Blood Pressure
If diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes dont work to lower your blood pressure, your healthcare provider will prescribe medications to help lower your blood pressure. Your provider will take into account other conditions you may have, such as heart or kidney disease and other drugs youre taking when prescribing medications to treat your high blood pressure. Be sure to follow your providers dosing directions exactly.
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Which Number Matters More
The answer is both. Years ago, doctors focused more on the bottom number, but it is now understood that the top number is just as important.
Both numbers can define high blood pressure and the need for treatment, Baker said.
A normal reading is less than 120 over 80. Readings above that are now considered elevated or high. The new guidelines, which were announced last November and are based on years of data, now mean that many more Americans are categorized as having high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is not a disease by itself, but its a risk factor for things like heart attack, kidney failure, stroke and more, Baker said. The new guidelines dont necessarily mean that many more people have to be on medication. They just mean a very large number of people need to be aware they have elevated or high blood pressure and need to do something about it.
How Do I Prepare For A Blood Pressure Measurement
- Wait 30 minutes to measure your blood pressure if you just smoked, exercised or had a cup of coffee.
- Go to the bathroom and pee until your bladder is empty.
- Roll up your sleeve so you dont put the cuff over your shirt sleeve.
- Sit for at least five minutes without talking.
- Sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor. Dont cross your legs.
- Rest your arm on a table in front of you so your arm is at heart level.
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How Is High Blood Pressure Diagnosed
Since high blood pressure doesnt have symptoms, your healthcare provider will need to check your blood pressure with a blood pressure cuff. Providers usually check your blood pressure at every annual checkup or appointment. If you have high blood pressure readings at two appointments or more, your provider may tell you that you have high blood pressure.
What Are The Worst Foods For Blood Pressure
Foods high in salt, sugar, and cholesterol are some of your blood pressure’s worst enemies. However, they can do more damage than just making your BP skyrocket. They may also affect life expectancy, considering that they can contribute to obesity.
Please steer clear of canned tomato products, as these are usually salted. That’s why you’d want to go with pure, unsalted tomato juice.
Processed meats, like cured deli, typically contain high amounts of salt, sugar, or both. You should also avoid frozen pizza, which contains processed and preserved ingredients.
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What Factors Influence Blood Pressure
- Age: Blood pressure tend to increase with age.
- Gender: Women after puberty have low BP than men, whereas, after menopause, women tend high BP.
- Genetics/family history: A family history puts you at risk of high BP.
- Weight: Being overweight or obese increases your risk of high BP.
- Diurnal variation: BP is lower in the morning and gradually increases throughout the day.
- Stress: BP increases during stress, emotions, fear, and anger situations due to stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system.
- Exercise: Physical activity increases BP, but regular exercises can keep BP in the lower range of normal.
- Pregnancy:Progesterone relaxes the walls of blood vessels, causing decreased peripheral vascular resistance. Some women may develop pregnancy-induced hypertension.
- Diseases: Diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Cushings syndrome, and pheochromocytoma can cause high BP.
- Medications: Certain medications can affect BP such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antidepressants, antianxiety medications, and prednisone.
- Alcohol or tobacco consumption: Drinking too much alcohol can increase your BP.
What Can I Do To Prevent Or Manage High Blood Pressure
Many people with high blood pressure can lower their blood pressure into a healthy range or keep their numbers in a healthy range by making lifestyle changes. Talk with your health care team about
- Getting at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week
- Not smoking
- Managing stress
In addition to making positive lifestyle changes, some people with high blood pressure need to take medicine to manage their blood pressure. Learn more about medicines for high blood pressure.
Talk with your health care team right away if you think you have high blood pressure or if youve been told you have high blood pressure but do not have it under control.
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Tips For Taking Blood Pressure Medication
Untreated high blood pressure can increase your risk of serious health problems. If your doctor prescribes medication to lower your blood pressure, remember:
- If you take blood pressure medication and your blood pressure goes down, it means medication and lifestyle changes are working. If another doctor asks if you have high blood pressure, the answer is, “Yes, but it is being treated.”
- Healthy lifestyle changes may help lower the dosage you need.
- Get up slowly from a seated or lying position and stand for a bit before walking. This lets your blood pressure adjust before walking to prevent lightheadedness and falls.
- Tell your doctor about all the drugs you take. Don’t forget to mention over-the-counter drugs, including vitamins and supplements. They may affect your blood pressure. They also can change how well your blood pressure medication works.
- Blood pressure medication should be taken at the same time each day as part of your daily routine. For example, take it in the morning with breakfast or in the evening before brushing your teeth. If you miss a dose, do not double the dose the next day.
- Remember to refill your medication before you run out and bring it with you when traveling. Its important to keep taking your medication unless your doctor tells you to stop.
- Before having surgery, ask your doctor if you should take your blood pressure medication on the day of your operation.
High Blood Pressure Categories
You can divide high blood pressure into five categories, according to guidelines from the American College of Cardiology:
- Normal: Normal blood pressure in adults is any blood pressure below 120/80.
- Elevated: In adults, elevated blood pressure is a systolic reading of 120-129 and a diastolic reading below 80.
- Hypertension stage I: This stage includes blood pressures ranges of 130-139 or 80-89 .
- Hypertension stage II: This stage includes blood pressures ranges above 140 or above 90 .
- Hypertensive crisis: Severely elevated blood pressure is defined as greater than 180 and/or 120 and associated with new or worsening organ damage.
Heart Attack And Heart Disease
High blood pressure can damage your arteries by making them less elastic, which decreases the flow of blood and oxygen to your heart and leads to heart disease. In addition, decreased blood flow to the heart can cause:
- Chest pain, also called angina.
- Heart attack, which happens when the blood supply to your heart is blocked and heart muscle begins to die without enough oxygen. The longer the blood flow is blocked, the greater the damage to the heart.
- Heart failure, a condition that means your heart cant pump enough blood and oxygen to your other organs.
Investing In A Clinically
As you shop for a BP monitor, look for a label that says “Recommended by Hypertension Canada.” Hypertension Canada is a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing and controlling hypertension. It helps in the clinical validation of the accuracy of BP devices for home monitoring.
You can ask your doctor to help you pick the best blood pressure monitor in Canada, too. Your healthcare provider will also help you measure your arm so you can select the right cuff size. Your physician can also check your BP monitor every year to ensure it remains accurate.
Lastly, check if your secondary health insurance covers medical devices. Your supplemental health plans may offer some form of coverage for BP monitors.
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Side Effects Of High Blood Pressure
Dangers of untreated high blood pressure include stroke, heart attack, heart failure, vision loss, kidney failure, vascular dementia and sexual dysfunction, says Dr. Desai. Its one of the top risk factors for developing atrial fibrillation, which is the most common heart rhythm disorder worldwide and can lead to stroke, heart failure and reduced quality of life.
How To Lower Blood Pressure
If you’re over 70 and have been told that your blood pressure is too high, don’t let the condition’s lack of symptoms keep you from working to get it into a healthy range. Make it a point to:
Review all your medications with your doctor. “Many people will need medication to manage their blood pressure,” Andromalos says. But be sure to tell your doctor about all other prescriptions you may have and any over-the-counter medications that you take, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or decongestants because they can raise your blood pressure, Dr. Vaishnava says.
Move more. Regular, moderate exercise can help you lower your blood pressure, the Mayo Clinic states. Find an activity you enjoy so that you’ll stick with it â cycling, walking, swimming or dancing, for instance. Strength training and high intensity interval training also can help lower your blood pressure.
Lose weight. The higher your body mass, the harder your heart has to work to pump critical blood. Losing even a small amount of weight can help lower your blood pressure, the Mayo Clinic states.
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Why Does Blood Pressure Matter
Many refer to high blood pressure as the silent killer because it usually has no symptoms. If left untreated, it can lead to several life-threatening conditions:
- Stroke: High blood pressure weakens arteries throughout the body, creating areas where they can become clogged or can burst, causing a stroke.
- Heart attack: The extra strain that blood pressure places on arteries in the heart leads to narrowing of arteries from plaque that hardens over time and can cause a heart attack.
- Heart failure: High blood pressure makes your heart work harder. Over time, this extra workload can lead to an enlarged heart. The larger your heart becomes, the harder it is for your heart to meet your bodys need for oxygen and nutrients. This strain and decreased ability to meet the bodys need for oxygen and nutrients, can lead to heart failure.
Does This Really Matter If Youve Finally Got Low Blood Pressure
Heart rhythm problems that affect the upper heart chamber can put you at an increased risk for stroke, heart failure or death. Heres why:
If youre diagnosed with an irregular heart rhythm, you may need to take blood-thinning medications, plus one of the treatments above, to decrease your risk of stroke. Your doctor can help you get the right care to keep everything steady and stable so the only time your heart is racing is while youre watching Stranger Things.
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How Can You Reduce Your Risk Of High Blood Pressure
Fortunately, there are certain things you can do to help reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure. These include the following:
- Eat right: A healthy diet is an important step in keeping your blood pressure normal. The DASH diet emphasizes adding fruits, vegetables and whole grains to your diet while reducing the amount of sodium. Since its rich in fruits and vegetables, which are naturally lower in sodium than many other foods, the DASH diet makes it easier to eat less salt and sodium.
- Keep a healthy weight: Going hand-in-hand with a proper diet is keeping a healthy weight. Since being overweight increases your blood pressure, losing excess weight with diet and exercise will help lower your blood pressure to healthier levels.
- Cut down on salt: The recommendation for salt in your diet is to have less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day . To prevent hypertension, you should keep your salt intake below this level. Don’t forget that most restaurant foods and many processed and frozen foods contain high levels of salt. Use herbs and spices that do not contain salt in recipes to flavor your food do not add salt at the table.
- Keep active: Even simple physical activities, such as walking, can lower your blood pressure .
- Drinkalcoholin moderation: Having more than one drink a day and two drinks a day can raise blood pressure.
What Medications Are Used To Treat High Blood Pressure
Four classes of high blood pressure medications are considered first line when starting treatment. Sometimes other medications are coupled with these first-line drugs to better control your high blood pressure. First-line, pressure-lowering medications are:
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors block the production of the angiotensin II hormone, which the body naturally uses to control blood pressure. When angiotensin II is blocked, your blood vessels dont narrow. Examples: lisinopril , enalapril or captopril.
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers block this same hormone from binding with receptors in the blood vessels. ARBs work the same way as ACE inhibitors to keep blood vessels from narrowing. Examples: metoprolol , valsartan or losartan.
- Calcium channel blockers prevent calcium from entering the muscle cells of your heart and blood vessels, allowing these vessels to relax. Examples: amlodipine , nifedipine , diltiazem .
- Diuretics flush excess sodium from your body, reducing the amount of fluid in your blood. Diuretics are often used with other high blood pressure medicines, sometimes in one combined pill. Examples: indapamide, hydrochlorothiazide or chlorothiazide.
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