world hypertension day know your numbers - image of a heart being measured

May 17th is World Hypertension Day and the theme for this year is “Know Your Numbers”. The goal of the day is increasing awareness of systolic and diastolic blood pressure values (systolic is the “top” number and diastolic is the “bottom”). If you’re like most people, your blood pressure is checked along with your temperature and weight nearly every time you see the doctor. Having your blood pressure taken has become so rudimentary for many of us that it can become easy to ignore until it becomes a problem. But what if you don’t visit the doctor regularly?

 

 

A survey conducted by Cleveland Clinic surveyed more than 500 men ages 18 to 70 across the United States and found that only three in five men get an annual physical, and a little over 40% go to the doctor only when they fear they have a serious medical condition.1 The problem with hypertension is that many of the early warning signs are not immediately evident. Unlike when you break a bone, or when you have the stomach flu, you may “feel fine” but your blood pressure could be telling a different story. According to the CDC, there are roughly 13 million U.S. adults with hypertension who aren’t even aware they have it and are not being treated.2 This is a serious issue because uncontrolled hypertension is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke.

 

Know Your Numbers

The best way to find out, is to have a doctor measure your blood pressure at least once a year during a physical. Most insurance plans cover 100% of the cost of a physical so why not get it done? If you don’t have insurance or can’t afford to see a doctor, you can always visit a blood pressure kiosk where you can have your blood pressure checked for free. Search your area to find a blood pressure kiosk.

 

Are You at Risk of Hypertension?

After you know your numbers, how do you determine if you’re at risk? The American Heart association has released the following guidelines. 3

BP CategorySystolic mmHg-Diastolic mmHg
Normal Less than 120 and Less than 80
Elevated 120-129 and Less than 80
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension stage 1) 130-139 or 80-89
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension stage 2) 140 or higher or 90 or higher
Hypertensive Crisis (consult your doctor immediately) Higher than 180 and/or Higher than 120

 

Don’t Stop at One Reading

There are many variables that can affect blood pressure so don’t stop at one blood pressure reading. Differences in the technique used, the size of the blood pressure cuff, what you ate that day, and whether or not you’re anxious can have a huge impact on a single blood pressure reading. In order to get a better understanding of your blood pressure, you can ask your doctor to average multiple blood pressure readings together using an automated BP monitor or they can do it manually.

 

White-coat Hypertension

If you consistently have high blood pressure when you visit your doctor, but it’s much lower when you check it at home or at a kiosk, you may have something called “White-Coat Hypertension”. White-coat hypertension is when a patient's BP is measured high in the office because the patient might be nervous in that environment. As many as 30% of diagnosed hypertensive patients are later found to have white-coat hypertension. It is important to differentiate between white-coat and sustained hypertension, since white-coat patients do not actually need anti-hypertensive medications.

 

It Could be User-Error

As well intentioned and trained as our doctors and nurses may be, errors in taking blood pressure measurements is common in most practices today. Pay attention next time you’re at the doctor’s office and see if they follow these 10 steps to accurate manual blood pressure measurement. Improper methods can artificially elevate your blood pressure so be sure to rule this out before you begin taking steps to treat your hypertension.

 

So, in celebration of World Hypertension Day, be sure to schedule that physical you’ve been neglecting to do or use a blood pressure kiosk which can be found in most pharmacies. Find out what your BP numbers are and keep track of them because your health depends on it.

Do you get your BP measured regularly?

Let us know in the comments below.

 

 

Links

  1. [1] Every Day Health
  2. [2] CDC.gov
  3. [3] Harvard Health