One of the most important tests for preventing heart disease is taking your blood pressure. It’s performed every time you visit your doctor. It’s one of the most telling screenings because high blood pressure doesn‘t always present with symptoms. And the only accurate way to measure your blood pressure is with a monitor.
Blood pressure, or BP, is the force that circulating blood places on the walls of your blood vessels. When your blood pressure is taken in the doctor’s office, or even when you take it at home, the place to take it usually is on your upper arm, where the brachial artery is located. This measures the force of the blood pumping from the artery in your heart.
Blood pressure readings vary significantly between people. Yours should be measured against previous readings you’ve had taken. Factors to consider when reading your blood pressure include:
- Alcohol use
- Physical inactivity
- Time of day
The arm band of the blood pressure monitor used by medical professionals is called the sphygmomanometer. The word comes from the Greek term for pulse, which is sphygmus, and the term manometer used in the scientific community for pressure meter. The two measurements that provide the overall picture of your heart’s activity are:
- The systolic measurement, which measures the pressure when the heart contracts
- The diastolic measurement, which measures the pressure when the heart relaxes
Blood pressure can differ drastically and will affect the course of treatment you require. Untreated high blood pressure can have a significant impact on your blood vessel walls and lead to a host of diseases. It’s vital that your doctor maintain an accurate record of your blood pressure history to monitor for conditions such as:
When Problems Arise
Typically, the only time high blood pressure gives you any recognizable symptoms is when you have a hypertensive crisis. That condition is typified by a systolic blood pressure reading of 180 or above and/or a diastolic reading of 110 or higher. You should call 911 if this occurs at home.
To continue to receive accurate data to closely monitor heart disease — or if you are at risk for heart failure, your doctor may recommend that you wear a heart monitor for 24 to 48 hours. One of the reasons is that many people get nervous when they go to the doctor, especially when they aren’t feeling well and may expect bad news. Nerves cause stress to your heart and could lead to a condition called “white coat hypertension,” a term used to describe when your blood pressure goes up every time you see the white lab coat of your doctor.
Understand Your Readings
You should learn what your blood pressure numbers mean and how your lifestyle affects those numbers. A single high reading doesn’t necessarily mean that you have hypertension, the medical term for high blood pressure. But if you consistently get a BP of 140/90 or higher, your doctor may decide to start treatment to lower those figures.
Alternatively, low blood pressure, below 120/80 on a consistent basis, doesn’t always mean there is a problem. Your doctor may want to conduct further tests if your low blood pressure also is accompanied by certain symptoms such as:
- Clammy, cold skin
- Fainting or dizziness
- Shallow breathing
- Blurred vision
Putting on the Cuffs
It’s vital that your doctor monitors your blood pressure on a regular basis if you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure or if you are at risk for developing the disease. Certain traits that put you at risk are unavoidable, such as:
- Age: after 65, women are at a higher risk than men
- Ethnicity: African-Americans have a propensity for high BP
- Family: if you have relative with high blood pressure, you are at a greater risk
Most of the risks for high blood pressure, though, are manageable and tied to certain lifestyle choices. To do your part in preventing high blood pressure:
- Include moderate to vigorous exercise in your daily activities
- Reduce sodium in your diet and eat balanced meals low in fat and sugar
- Lose weight if you have a body mass index (BMI) over 30
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
- Quit smoking
- Reduce stress
To learn more about monitoring your blood pressure, contact us. NYC Cardiology, Manhattan Cardiovascular Associates wants to keep all its visitors and patients healthy for a long and full life.
Manhattan Cardiovascular Associates
Dr. Michael Ghalchi, Cardiologist (Cardiologist NYC, Midtown)
New York, NY 10010
(Between Madison Ave & Park Ave)
☎ (212) 686-0066