Blood pressure is an important health indicator that requires routine monitoring and control if elevated. This article will discuss what blood pressure is, associated health risks, lifestyle management, the role of blood tests, and how to understand your blood pressure numbers.
What is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure measures the force of blood against artery walls as the heart pumps blood to the body. It is recorded as two numbers:
- Systolic pressure - The pressure as the heart beats and contracts to push blood out.
- Diastolic pressure - The pressure between heartbeats as the heart relaxes and refills with blood.
Normal blood pressure is a systolic reading of around 120 mmHg and a diastolic of around 80 mmHg, expressed as 120/80 mmHg.
Dangers of Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure
Over time, the force of elevated blood pressure damages artery walls, predisposing them to:
- Heart attack and stroke
- Chronic kidney disease
- Cognitive decline and dementia
- Vision loss
- Erectile dysfunction
Controlling high blood pressure is one of the most important things you can do to reduce cardiovascular disease risk.
Causes and Risk Factors for Hypertension
Common causes contributing to high blood pressure include:
- Unhealthy diet high in sodium and low in potassium
- Insufficient exercise
- Smoking and excess alcohol intake
- Older age
- Genetic predisposition
- Underlying conditions like diabetes, kidney disease
Lifestyle Changes to Improve Blood Pressure
Making certain lifestyle modifications can help lower blood pressure or prevent it from rising further:
- Exercise regularly - Aerobic and strength training both reduce blood pressure. Aim for 30–60 minutes most days.
- Lose extra weight - Losing even 5-10% of body weight can dramatically lower blood pressure in those overweight.
- Healthy diet - Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy. Limit sodium, saturated fat, sugar and alcohol.
- Limit sodium - Reducing sodium intake below 2000 mg daily can help lower blood pressure. Avoid processed foods.
- Increase potassium - Eating foods high in potassium like bananas, potatoes, spinach and beans helps lower sodium’s effects.
- Reduce stress - Chronically high stress and anxiety stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, elevating blood pressure.
- Restful sleep - Getting 7–9 hours of sleep nightly enables heart rate and blood pressure to dip down as needed.
- Stop smoking - Smoking raises blood pressure acutely and chronically. Quitting rapidly reduces cardiovascular risk.
The Role of Blood Testing in Hypertension Evaluation
Diagnosing the underlying cause of hypertension often involves lab tests like:
- Complete blood count - Checks for anaemia and kidney disease.
- Metabolic panel - Measures kidney function via creatinine, electrolyte imbalances, and diabetes via blood glucose.
- Cholesterol tests - Elevated LDL and triglycerides increase blood pressure risk.
- Thyroid tests - Low thyroid hormone can contribute to blood pressure elevations.
- Urinalysis - Detects protein loss that signals kidney damage.
Blood testing also monitors if medications are working and guide adjustments. Home or lab blood pressure checks ensure lifestyle measures and medication doses are controlling hypertension adequately.
Interpreting Your Blood Pressure Numbers
Here are guideline blood pressure levels for adults without short-term complications:
- Normal: Below 120/80 mmHg. Maintain a healthy lifestyle.
- Elevated: 120-129/<80 mmHg. Start lifestyle changes. Recheck in 1 year.
- Stage 1 Hypertension: 130-139/80-89 mmHg. Lifestyle changes for 6 months, then consider medication if no improvement.
- Stage 2 Hypertension: 140/90 mmHg or greater. Lifestyle changes and medication.
Have at least annual screenings with your healthcare provider and discuss your results: higher pressures require swift action to avoid complications. Managing elevated blood pressure remains one of the best investments in your long-term cardiovascular health.
Low Blood Pressure
Here are some key points about low blood pressure (hypotension):
- Blood pressure is considered low when the systolic reading (top number) falls below 90 mmHg or the diastolic reading (bottom number) is below 60 mmHg.
- Temporary low blood pressure can occur due to dehydration, heat exposure, malnutrition, blood loss, pregnancy, and certain medications.
- Persistent hypotension can be caused by heart conditions, endocrine disorders, neurological disorders, severe infections, medications, or nutritional deficiencies.
- Symptoms of low BP include dizziness, fainting, fatigue, nausea, clammy skin, depressed mood, blurry vision, and lack of concentration.
- Serious complications include falls, ischaemia leading to damage to vital organs, kidney failure, and shock.
- Treatments depend on the cause but can include IV fluids, discontinuing/changing medications, compression stockings, elevating the head of bed, and increasing fluid and salt intake.
- Lifestyle tips to manage low BP include staying hydrated, avoiding alcohol, slowly rising from sitting/lying down, and doing calf muscle exercises to pump blood back to the heart.
- Medications like fludrocortisone, vasopressors, or inotropes may be used in stubborn cases under medical supervision.
While low blood pressure sounds favourable, chronically low readings often signal an underlying condition needing diagnosis and management. Seeking care for persistent symptoms is important.
Frequently Asked Questions
Uncontrolled high blood pressure poses serious heart disease and stroke risk.
What blood pressure level requires immediate medical care?
Systolic over 180 mmHg or diastolic over 120 mmHg may indicate a hypertensive crisis warranting ER evaluation. Lower pressures may also need urgent care if causing acute target organ damage.
How frequently should I check my blood pressure?
Check your blood pressure at least once a year with your doctor and additionally, if you have hypertension or are at high risk. Consider home monitoring 1-2x per week.
Does anxiety affect blood pressure readings?
Anxiety and "white coat syndrome" can transiently increase blood pressure. Discuss concerns with your doctor, breathe deeply and relax your body to stabilize readings.
What foods help control high blood pressure?
Eat foods high in potassium like leafy greens, bananas, salmon, beans, and yogurt. Limit foods high in sodium like canned, processed, restaurant and frozen foods.
Should I take supplements for blood pressure?
Discuss supplements like magnesium, CoQ10 and omega-3 fish oil with your doctor, but lifestyle measures and medication give the most reliable blood pressure improvements.
Lab test and preventive health checkup for blood pressure
At healthcare nt sickcare, our accredited lab provides the blood testing needed to evaluate and manage hypertension. Please contact us or book your screening tests online to take control of your heart health.
Here are some key points about lab tests and preventive health checkups related to blood pressure:
- Routine screening for high blood pressure through lab tests and physical exams allows early detection and treatment before complications develop.
- Recommended screening labs include cholesterol profile, blood glucose, and kidney function tests which provide insights into cardiovascular health.
- An urinalysis can detect protein loss indicating kidney damage from chronic hypertension.
- Electrolyte imbalance testing identifies deficiencies in potassium, magnesium or sodium that may be contributing to blood pressure abnormalities.
- Thyroid hormone testing uncovers hypothyroidism as a potential underlying cause of elevated blood pressure.
- A complete blood count screens for anemia and other red blood cell abnormalities.
- Blood pressure should be checked at all standard preventive care visits, minimum once a year. More frequent monitoring is needed if hypertension is present.
- Home blood pressure monitoring gives a better long-term assessment compared to one-time clinic readings.
- Lifestyle counselling on diet, exercise, sleep, stress reduction, and avoiding tobacco is provided.
- Medication adjustment or new prescriptions are made if blood pressure is not controlled on current treatment.
Routine lab testing and preventive health visits allow early intervention for better cardiovascular health through blood pressure control. This reduces the risk of serious complications like heart attack, stroke and kidney failure.
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