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Do You Know Your Blood Pressure?

Blood is a unique marvelous fluid that circulates in our vascular system. It’s the only organ in the body that is a fluid. As a result, it moves throughout the body to bring nutrition and carry away waste products. It also needs pressure to flow. Pressure is the force that moves blood around the circulatory system. In general the heart generates an orderly pattern of pressure to supply organs with the blood each one needs.

Additionally, blood needs its avenues to move and transport all the good things, but it also transports a lot of junk. Thus, it is necessary to keep the roads, arteries, in good shape for this precious fluid to flow at a continuous force. What is normal arterial pressure, then?

Multiple factors determine the normal force with which the blood flows; however our main concern is to learn whether or not your blood pressure is normal and answer questions such as: What is high blood pressure? Do I know my readings? Do I have hypertension? If I do, which risk factors am I exposed to? Can I keep track of it at home? If so, how can I measure it at home? And should I visit the doctor?

What is high blood pressure?

The persistent presence of values that exceed 140/90 is considered as hypertension. The normal reading range is 120/80 or less. Systolic pressure is measured when the heart contracts, and diastolic pressure when the heart relaxes, between beats. Numbers are given like this: 120/80… where the top number is the systolic and the bottom number is the diastolic pressure. Criteria for the diagnosis of hypertension varies depending on the presence of associated medical problems, for instance, diabetes mellitus, or kidney disease. Sometimes a diagnosis of hypertension, can be made at an initial hypertension-related visit when arterial pressure is higher than 200/120 mm Hg; this is either a hypertensive emergency or urgency. The mm Hg is millimeters of mercury-the units used to measure it.

Hypertension Chart: What your reading means.

The table depicted below shows a general classification for readers to better grasp the idea of whether or not you have a disorder in your blood system. Both readings are important. If one or both are persistently high, you have high blood pressure.

Your category:

Normal; Systolic or Diastolic blood pressure


Less than 120 mm Hg / Less than 80 mm Hg


120-139 / 80-89

Hypertension Stage 1

140-159 / 90-99

Hypertension Stage 2

160 or higher / 100 or higher

Adapted from The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. December 2003 in Hypertension. 2003; 42:1206

Blood pressure monitoring at home

There are many ways of testing it. You can measure it at home, at a pharmacy, or at the doctor’s office. Nowadays, there is no easier way to do it than by using your own home blood pressure monitor to control your reading results. Try to take readings at same time of day to ensure consistency. You just need to have a device provided with a cuff. Ask for the right cuff size for your arm, this is very important so as to have accurate readings. Then, sit down in a straight up position with your back supported and feet flat on the floor, raise your arm at the heart level with the palm of the hand facing upward, then, wrap the cuff in the upper part of your bare arm, the cuff should have enough room for you to slip one fingertip under the cuff, and 2 cm from the crease of your elbow, stay quiet, and then press start. As the cuff inflates you will feel the cuff getting tighter around your arm and after a while the monitor will display your results. Take 2 readings on one sitting since these may differ.

On the other hand, if you don’t have the machine you might go to a public place where you can have measured it for free. Don’t forget to write down the date it was checked, the readings, and additional data if provided. Keeping a record of your measurements will show you and your doctor how well your medicine is working, and also it allows you to participate in taking control of your own health and identifying changes.

Now you know how to measure it and also know your readings.

Who is at risk for hypertension?

Risk is defined as a possibility of getting into a situation. There are factors which when present threaten normal blood pressure levels. Those risk factors could be, family history of hypertension, stress, being overweight or obese, age, race, smoking, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, having too much salt in your diet, and certain chronic medical conditions such as diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, sleep apnea, and high cholesterol. These are the factors that could lead you to have hypertension. Apart from that, once it is diagnosed you should take action to treat it. If left untreated, hypertension can damage multiple organs. In fact, this condition is known as the Silent Killer because the individual may be suffering from this condition for years without any symptoms. The persistent rise harms the heart, kidneys, brain, retina, and vessels. So, before the damage in organs appears you can accomplish much to prevent a calamitous event.

Should I visit the doctor?

Yes, it is the doctor who makes a diagnosis. Diagnosis of hypertension is not always done at the first doctor visit, it may take two or three visits over a period of several weeks. Alternatively; it is important to monitor your readings by having it measured at home. You can work along with the doctor in order to have your blood pressure under control. Self-monitoring is crucial in the prevention of devastating outcomes. If I were a cardiologist I would never want to see a person with a damaged heart as a consequence of hypertension. Or, if I were a Nephrologist, I would never want to see an individual dying from damaged kidneys. Still, if I were a Neurologist I would never want to see a patient with an injury to the brain just because he did not know the significant risk of stroke when readings are higher than 160/100 mm Hg.

Reuters Health reports: “Home blood pressure monitors can help people keep their blood pressure in check and possibly cut down on medication — as long as the patients and their doctors put those home readings to good use, a new research review finds.”

To sum up; take action by measuring your blood pressure. So before an adverse outcome occurs it is important that you know that high blood pressure is usually controllable. It’s not something you can not do anything about.

This information serves as a guide to prevent the progressive rise in blood pressure and its complications, nevertheless is the physician responsibility to diagnose the condition.

Esmeralda Mansilla