Is your blood pressure about to blow the top of your head off?

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One of the mandatory tests at my hospital, when you make an appointment to see a doctor, is a blood pressure reading, usually denoted as “BP”. These days there are numerous medications so your BP doesn’t blow your hat off!

I speak from experience here, as I take blood pressure tablets to keep my BP within the normal range, which they do (provided I remember take them)!

For many reasons, including forgetfulness, I had not taken any for over a week. (Test for Alzheimers Disease – it you can remember you’ve forgotten you haven’t got it – BUT if you’ve forgotten you’ve forgotten, then you’re on the way.) When I remembered I had forgotten my tablets, I popped into one of the Out Patients Clinics and got the nurse to take my BP. It was 158/87. Too high. I need to remember to take my tablets! However, about 30 minutes later I had my BP checked again. This time 147/76. Much better, but still marginally up.

How could this be? To complicate the matters even more, I had my BP checked this week. Result 120/65. Were all the machines wrong?

No, the machines were not wrong, but what you have to understand is that BP is not a constant number, but fluctuates for many reasons – rushing, coffee, anxiety, cigarettes, being nearly run over by a baht bus or taxi motorcy and a whole host of others. This is why, if your doctor tells you that you have “hypertension” (high BP that needs treating) on just one reading – don’t believe him (or her).

So how do you find out if your BP is too high? Quite simply by repeated measurements. Just as one swallow doesn’t make a summer, one elevated reading does not necessarily mean hypertension. And one low reading does not mean your heart is giving up.

So why is BP important? Because if you don’t have BP you are definitely dead! However, if your BP is too high for too long, it can mean you could be claiming early on your life insurance policy – or your relatives will, on your behalf.

High BP is otherwise known as the “silent killer” as there are very few symptoms of the increase in blood pressure until a vessel bursts somewhere, generally catastrophically! The good thing is you are dead within minutes, so you won’t linger.

So what is the correct BP? The following table shows the categories of BP measurements.

Optimal: less than 120/80
Normal: less than 130/80
High-normal: 130–139/85–89

High blood pressure (hypertension):
Stage 1: 140–159/90–99
Stage 2: 160–179/100–109
Stage 3: 180 or higher/110 or higher

Now, if you really have hypertension, get it treated – but remember to have repeated measurements done, and don’t let the doctor classify you as being “hypertensive” until repeated measurements confirm that your BP really is too high.

As part of the routine in most good hospitals and clinics is the measurement of your blood pressure. You should get this done at least twice a year. Rising or elevated readings do mean you should get medical advice. High BP affects all the organs such as brain, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys. Stop smoking today and watch your BP return to the normal range.