I just stopped at the pharmacy, checked my blood pressure (BP) it read high! Should I be concerned?
First of all, elevated blood pressure, or what we call hypertension, can be a silent disease - many people have elevated BP without any symptoms. Other people have symptoms that are vague - dull headaches, blurry vision, chest discomfort, a sensation of heartburn, swelling in the hands or feet or just feeling tired. You should have your blood pressure checked at least once a year. Using a pharmacy machine is very hit-or-miss. Many machines at pharmacies are calibrated regularly. Plus, not all machines are one-size-fits-all. You might be too big or too small for the cuff. If you try a machine and it gives you 3 readings in a row that are very similar, you are probably looking at good one. Otherwise, it might be time to come to the office for an appointment. If you aren't sure, most fire stations are prepared to take your BP like your doctor can in the office.
- (Corollary) What should my BP be? Ideally for a healthy individual who has no other medical problems your blood pressure should be 120/80 or less. The top number (systolic) can be as high as 140 to be acceptable, and the lower number (diastolic) up to 90. Anything higher than 140/90 you should consult your physician.
- (Corollary #2) - What do the blood pressures represent? The top number - systolic pressure, is the amount of force the heart has to squeeze to push blood around the body. A higher systolic blood pressure can represent stiffer or narrower arteries - the difference say between pushing water through a hose versus a straw. The diastolic pressure represents the force it takes blood to refill the heart in between beats. A stiffer or enlarged heart takes more pressure to fill
- (Corollary #3) - What can I do to lower my blood pressure without medicine?
o Lose weight
o Stop smoking (causes blood vessels to tighten, increasing BP)
o Limit your alcohol intake
o Limit your salt intake