“You Have High Blood Pressure!”
Those are the dreaded words none of us wants to hear the Physician tell us at our annual check-ups!!
People who are diagnosed with Hypertension by a Doctor often face a difficult decision. Since most Doctors approach to treating high blood pressure is to start the patient on some sort of blood pressure medication, many people feel pressured into following their Doctor’s recommendations and immediately accept the fact that this is the right, and only way, to treat their blood pressure condition.
This coupled with the very real fear that not treating the elevated blood pressure could result in increased risk of cardio-vascular disease, stroke or even kidney disease, is enough to force many patients immediately into accepting the doctor’s advice.
This leaves them taking prescription medications very often for the rest of their lives. Certainly, for many the blood pressure medications will produce results, but often they come with undesired side-effects, which may then need to be treated with secondary medications.
Well, and at the risk of sounding controversial, you do have other options!
There is no need to rush into jumping on to the medication bandwagon. In fact, in my opinion, a physician who is worth his salt, will know of some other options and will guide you through these first. The decision to go down the prescription drug trail should only come into play after all those other options have been considered and exhausted.
Below I am going to discuss some of these options in greater detail.
But first there is something else which needs to be decided!!
Do I really have Hypertension?
This may seem like a rather odd question. After all you were at the Doctor’s Office and the nurse took your BP once and it was high. So to make sure the Doctor took it a second time and it was still high. And after all when compared with the standards for normal BP it registered higher than Normal on the scale and landed you into the High BP category, so it must be high then, right?
Well, hold on a minute. I can think of three things which could have easily been overlooked and which need to be considered:
- WHITE COAT SYNDROME – this is a very common reason for misdiagnosis of hypertension at a Doctor’s office or clinic. For more information on what exactly White Coat Syndrome is, I discuss this more fully HERE
- Blood pressure is dynamic and fluctuates throughout the course of the day. So it really is an artificial process to base a diagnosis of hypertension merely on one or two readings at the Doctor’s Office.
- Possibly the most important factor: There is a PROPER TECHNIQUE FOR TAKING BLOOD PRESSURE ** which is not always followed, thus leading to potential errors in readings.
**This is also exacerbated by using BP monitoring devices which have not been checked for correct calibration. This video shows how to calibrate your BP device:
How to Take Blood Pressure Correctly
The following standards are commonly accepted by the medical community as the proper technique for taking blood pressure:
Step 1 – The patient should be seated on a chair with a back support and feet placed flat on the floor with legs uncrossed for 5 minutes
Step 2 – 30 minutes before the reading is taken, the patient should not have engaged in any exercise, not smoked nor had any caffeine. Also he should not be wearing any tight clothing which could restrict blood flow.
Step 3 – A proper sized blood pressure cuff must be used to gain an accurate reading and it must be placed properly around arm. Upper arm cuffs are preferred, (although the reliability of wrist monitors is improving.)
Step 4 – The arm should be supported not too low and not too high – around heart height – to avoid getting a false high, or low reading respectively.
Step 5 – Two separate readings 2 minutes apart should be taken and an average result achieved. And a third measurement can be taken if the initial two differ by more than 5 mmHg.
What often happens in practice is that this proper technique is not fully observed and that can have a significant consequences on the blood pressure measurements which are obtained. These false readings can then be directly responsible for someone being placed on prescription medication for a supposed hypertensive condition which in actuality doesn’t even exist!!
And that is a real cause for concern!!
The Texas Study
To illustrate my last point, a study was conducted by a team of researchers from Texas to look into this very issue. They took a group of subjects whose blood pressure was greater than 120/80 and measured their BPs employing the accepted standards I described above.
And, you’ve guessed it, by following theses proper technique guidelines, the average systolic/diastolic pressures dropped by 15.7/8.2 mmHg, and went down from 146/88 to 131/79.
What this meant is that those patients whose blood pressure had been classified as Stage 1 Hypertension, (140–159/90–99) ended up with readings in the Prehypertension range, (120–139/80–89). And those with preliminary levels in the Prehypertension range saw their readings fall to the Normal range, i.e. 120/80 or less. This happened to a whopping 81% of the study subjects which is indeed a significant percentage!!
And the Moral of the Story is…
To avoid the possibility of being misdiagnosed with high blood pressure, and ending up on medications which are not needed, it is vital to take personal responsibility over the matter. The simple solution is to invest in a good quality blood pressure monitor and take periodic BP levels at home using the correct technique
See my review of the blood pressure monitor machine I would recommend by clicking HERE
Since BP fluctuates considerably throughout the course of the day, I find the best way to know exactly what is happening to my blood pressure is to take readings 2-4 times a week at varying times of the morning, afternoon and evening.
Over time this gives me an overall picture of what is going on, and I can also average out my blood pressure using a week or two weeks worth of data at a time. This then further enables me to see trends in my BP which can be related to factors such as diet, amount of exercise, how stressful my life is a certain times and even due to weather and seasonal changes.
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For further information on effect of weather on Blood Pressure, click HERE
Okay, so you have done your due diligence with monitoring you blood pressure regularly, following correct technique and using a reliable home blood pressure monitor, and your results show that you do indeed have either prehypertension, or actual Hypertension. Now what can you do for yourself to start bringing your elevated readings down?
Practice DEW diligence!!
The three things which are usually implicated in essential or primary high blood pressure i.e. hypertension not caused by either genetic factors, or because of an underlying disease process are DEW:
- EXERCISE (or rather lack thereof!)
And all three of these contributory factors are things that you can do something about.
And this is what I call practicing DEW diligence! 🙂
In part 2 of my post I am going to focus in greater detail on each of these three components and show you how by changing a few things in your lifestyle, you can definitely have a positive influence on your blood pressure.
So stay tuned, Part 2 is coming out really soon!!