By Renea Dennison, Contributor
Last week we talked about what blood pressure (BP) is, how your blood pressure is determined, and that the top or systolic number gauges pressure when the heart is beating and the lower or diastolic number measures pressure when the heart is resting. This week we will talk about the different levels of hypertension or high blood pressure (HPB), and what we can do for it. Your BP can change minute by minute, so the numbers below represent consistent readings and not a one-time experience.
Normal – A systolic of less than 120 and a diastolic of less than 80. This is where everyone wants to be if possible. If you are here, wonderful! Keep up your healthy habits of a balanced diet and regular exercise.
Elevated – A systolic of 120-129 and a diastolic of less than 80. This is not good, but no need to get worked up. This is basically a warning. You are likely to develop HBP unless you take steps to control it. Eat a healthy diet, lower your salt intake, lose weight, reduce your alcohol intake, and exercise regularly. You doctor may want you to come back in 6 months for another reading. At this point, watching your BP is a good idea.
HBP Stage 1 – A systolic of 130 – 139 or diastolic of 80-89. Changing your lifestyle is a must (see Elevated). Your doctor will prescribe this, and may also prescribe medications based on your risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (i.e. – heart attack or stoke). Your doctor will want to see you again in 1-6 months depending on your risk factors.
HPB Stage 2 – A systolic of 140 or higher or a diastolic of 90 or higher. Your doctor will give you medications to bring your BP down, as well as prescribe you a change in lifestyle (see Elevated). Your doctor will want to see you again in a month.
Hypertension Crisis – A systolic of 180 or higher or a diastolic of 120 or higher. Wait 5 minutes and take your BP again. If it is still this high, call 9-1-1.
Many people prefer to keep track of their BP at home. This is helpful for peace of mind for the patient, letting the doctor know if your medications are working, and also because some patients just get higher readings in a doctor’s office.
If you decide to keep track at home, select a monitor that goes around the upper arm (wrist and finger monitors are not as accurate). Try to get a monitor that inflates itself, has a digital readout that is easy to read, and perhaps plugs into your smartphone. Take it with you on your next visit to your doctor to be sure it matches the numbers the doctor is getting, that the cuff fits and that you are placing it correctly. Avoid caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol and exercise for 30 minutes before you take a reading. Be sure to sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Your arm should be supported so your elbow is at heart level. Don’t talk during the measurement. Take your BP at the same time every day, and write the numbers down unless you have a smartphone to do it for you. Bring the numbers with you when you go to the doctor so they can see how your medications are working. Finally, you don’t need to actually have HBP to start monitoring it. People who are seemingly healthy rarely go to the doctor, so HBP may sneak up on you. Better to be safe than sorry.
HBP can be deadly, but fortunately is usually easy to control. Though the lifestyle changes can be challenging for some, they are all things everyone should be doing even if they are healthy. Unlike some illnesses, the treatment itself is easy and painless. Take your medications if prescribed, and measure your BP regularly. Then ta-da! You too can have safe and healthy blood pressure.
Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.