Hypertension or high blood pressure occurs when the blood pressure abnormally rises to undesirable levels. It is the increased force exerted by blood against the walls of the artery. Normal blood pressure is 120/80 mm Hg. High blood pressure is defined as a level greater than 130/80 mm Hg or 140/90 mm Hg according to various guidelines.
As most of the time, there are no noticeable signs of hypertension, it is also called ‘the silent killer’. Thereby, raising a significant risk to damage the brain, heart, kidneys, and blood vessels. Ignoring blood pressure symptoms can prove to be fatal and lead to a stroke, heart attack including heart failure and kidney failure, if not diagnosed early and treated appropriately.
It is being estimated that one in every three Indian adults above the age of 60 is being affected by hypertension. This shows how vital it is to regularly monitor blood pressure to treat and evade the risk of serious illnesses. Although, monitoring blood pressure is important, but measuring it in a correct way is also crucial as accurate measurement in hypertensive people gives a clear picture of the cardiovascular risk. This is also very helpful to those who have borderline BP and are in need of a proper diagnosis and treatment with the right medication.
A small error in BP measurements has the potential to mislabel someone as having high BP, resulting in unnecessary medication.
This World Hypertension Day, take note of these warning symptoms that one should never ignore and a few key tips to ensure accurate BP measurement.
Headaches: Sometimes these could be triggered by lack of sleep. However, if you are suffering from a throbbing headache way too often, it could be a sign of high blood pressure
Nosebleeds: If your nose bleeds not due to sinusitis, then it could be a sign that you your blood pressure is high and needs to get levels checked
Shortness of breath: Difficulty in breathing and shortness of breath is also an indication for hypertension
Irregular heartbeat: Arrhythmia or irregular heartbeats can also occur in hypertension patients. This happens due to uncontrolled pressure at which blood exerts force against artery walls
Chest pain: Due to shortness of breath in hypertension patients, in extreme cases, it could also lead to chest pain
Tips for accurate BP measurement
The correct sized BP cuff needs to be put on the bare arm
Having an empty bladder is advisable, a full bladder can increase BP readings
Patients should sit still with back support and feet on the floor
Avoid talking while measuring BP readings
The arm should be supported at the level of the heart
Avoid consuming food, caffeine, alcohol 30 minutes before measuring
If monitoring blood pressure at home, minimum of three readings to be recorded and the average of the last two readings can be considered for the reading
While there is no cure, make lifestyle changes that matter. Enhance quality of life by eating a well-balanced diet, limit salt and alcohol consumption, regular exercise to maintain a healthy weight, manage stress, quit smoking, take your medications properly, and work together with your doctor. These protocols can go a long way and reduce health risks.
(Dr. Sunil Wani is Consultant, Cardiology at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Mumbai)