Do You Have Hypertension?

Know Your Numbers!

Complications of Persistent Hypertension

Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

Do you think you might have high blood pressure? It's easy to find out! High blood pressure can remain undiagnosed for years because most people don’t experience significant symptoms. Occasionally, some people with hypertension may have headaches, dizziness, or nosebleeds, but in most cases, hypertension goes undetected. This is why hypertension is known as “the Silent Killer.” When blood is flowing to body organs at elevated pressures, changes occur in your blood vessels that can result in damage to the eyes, kidneys, and other organs.

If hypertension remains unrecognized, medical complications occur that could often be prevented with early treatment and good blood pressure control.

Measuring Your Blood Pressure

The only accurate way to determine whether or not you have hypertension is by measurement of your blood pressure. The diagnosis of hypertension is usually made after three elevated readings have been obtained,  so when you measure your blood pressure, you should be aware of things that can cause a temporary rise in your numbers. Some things that can elevate your blood pressure include:

“White Coat Hypertension” refers to the increase in blood pressure you may experience when visiting your doctor. Often, your doctor will wait until you’ve settled into your visit to repeat measurement of an initially high blood pressure reading. Smoking and caffeine constrict your arteries, which results in elevated blood pressure measurement.

Your sympathetic nervous system reacts to exercise and stress by redistributing blood flow, which can also alter your blood pressure. You should measure your blood pressure at the same time each day, to get a consistent reading.

Blood Pressure Monitors

Both manual and digital blood pressure monitors are accurate and commercially available.

Whatever you choose, read the instructions carefully before you begin. The tips below will help you obtain an accurate reading with either type of monitor.​

Preparing to Measure Your Blood Pressure

When you take your blood pressure, prepare by finding a quiet spot and rolling up the sleeve on your left arm. Remove any tight clothing, if necessary. Find a chair next to a table, where your arm can rest comfortably at the level of your heart, and sit quietly for five or ten minutes before measurement, particularly if you have been rushing around.

Taking Your Blood Pressure Measurement

First, locate your pulse by pressing your index and middle finger gently to the inside of your elbow. You should feel a pulsation from the brachial artery, but it you can’t locate the pulse using touch, you can proceed by placing the head of the stethoscope on the same area if using a manual monitor, or you can simply place the cuff of the digital monitor in the general area of the inside elbow – the cuff is usually marked.

Next, place the end of the cuff on your monitor through the metal loop, sliding the cuff to tighten it above the elbow. Place the bottom of the cuff approximately an inch above the bend of the elbow. The Velcro should be fastened to secure the cuff snugly, but don’t fasten it too tightly or your reading will be falsely elevated.

Using a Manual Monitor

If you are using a manual blood pressure monitor, hold the pressure gauge in the left hand and the bulb in your right hand. You should close the airflow valve on the bulb by turning the screw in the clockwise direction and then inflate the cuff by squeezing the bulb with your right hand. You will hear the heartbeat if you are listening through the stethoscope.

Watch the gauge as you inflate the cuff, stopping when the gauge is approximately 30 mm Hg above the expected systolic pressure. You should inflate the cuff until you no longer hear the heartbeat in the stethoscope.

Slowly release the cuff pressure by turning the airflow valve counter-clockwise, allowing the gauge to fall two or three points with each heartbeat. When you hear the first heartbeat, note the reading on the gauge. This number is the systolic pressure.

Continue to deflate the blood pressure cuff slowly, listening until the sound disappears again. As soon as you can no longer hear a heartbeat, record the reading on the gauge. This number is the diastolic pressure.

Allow the cuff to completely deflate and remove the cuff.

If you did not hear the return of pulse, or if you deflated the cuff too quickly, wait a minute before you repeat measurement of your blood pressure, and reapply the cuff to begin again.

Using a Digital Monitor

Press the power button. The display will briefly appear, showing all zeros, which indicates that the monitor is ready. Allow the cuff to inflate automatically. It will then begin to deflate, recording your blood pressure. Wait until you hear a long beep, which indicates the measurement is complete. The pressures on the display screen will include the systolic pressure, usually on the left side, and the diastolic pressure, on the right. Digital monitors may also display a final heart rate (pulse) with your measurement. Record your measurement with the date and time.

What is a High Blood Pressure?

Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg. Blood pressure between 120/80 and 139/89 is known as “pre-hypertension.” If your blood pressure falls in this range, you may want to modify your diet and lifestyle to prevent progression to chronic hypertension. If you have blood pressures consistently above 140/90 mm Hg, your doctor will determine the best treatment to control your blood pressure and prevent future complications.

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