High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease (heart attacks, strokes, etc.) which is the biggest killer of men and women in Australia. Hypertension is a major contributor to the build-up of ‘plaque’ or ‘atherosclerosis’ in arteries which is what causes cardiovascular disease.
Know the signs of high blood pressure symptoms?
One of the scariest things about hypertension is that there is often no detectable sign or symptom to suggest a person has high blood pressure. People are often surprised when they are told they have a high blood pressure reading for the first time as they usually feel well.
Your blood pressure can also be elevated because of other illnesses, stress and pain, as opposed to causing you to feel unwell. Your GP can assist in working through these things with you to keep you safe and healthy and help you get back to feeling healthy.
What is healthy blood pressure?
It’s completely natural for blood pressure to fluctuate and at times it may fall outside the range that is considered to be a ‘healthy blood pressure’.
Healthy blood pressure would be about 120/80. Anything over 140/90 is considered elevated.
If you have a blood pressure reading now and again that is outside the healthy range, it does not mean you have hypertension. Just like, if you do have hypertension, you may also have ‘normal blood pressure’ readings from time to time.
It’s important to know how much time the blood pressure spends in the abnormal range. There are a few ways to collect this information. One would be to see your doctor regularly enough to get a sense of the ‘usual’ blood pressure. Home blood pressure devices are a great option also, especially if these measurements are recorded and tracked over time (ideally in a digital format such as a smart phone application).
Home blood pressure monitors may not be as reliable as the machines we use in the clinic as we use professional grade machines which are calibrated on a regular basis. So, it’s very important that you work closely with your GP to establish what your blood pressure is doing and the reasons you might be having fluctuating results.
If I have hypertension does this mean I need to take medication?
While there are some individuals that will need to take medication to improve their blood pressure this is not always the case and we consider carefully if medication needs to be started or not.
We look at your other risk factors for disease and usually only start medication for patients who are at an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. We know that lifestyle is a major contributor to high blood pressure and improving some aspects of lifestyle can also often lead to improvements in blood pressure.
The most common ways we can reduce blood pressure are:
- exercising regularly (ideally 30 mins of moderate-intensity exercise daily, enough to be a bit sweaty and out of breath such as a brisk walk, a swim or a weights session for example)
- keeping a healthy waist circumference (less than 94cm in Caucasian males, less then 90cm in Asian men and less then 80cm in all women).
reducing alcohol (alcohol directly contributes to elevated blood pressure)
- avoiding a diet high in salt
- some foods that lower blood pressure such as those found in the ‘Mediterranean diet’ and the ‘Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet’
- reducing stress levels, increasing relaxation activities such as meditation, time away from work, spending time in nature and having fun (endorphins are great to lower blood pressure!).
When did you last have your blood pressure checked by your doctor? If you have any high blood pressure symptoms it’s important to mention this to your doctor at any medical appointment.
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