Blood pressure is the force exerted on your artery walls by the blood that circulates from your heart to other parts of your body. High blood pressure (hypertension) is generally considered a silent killer because most people with hypertension do not have any symptoms. The best way to monitor your blood pressure is through regular checkups.
Nowadays, you can easily do this at home using an automated blood pressure machine or sphygmomanometer. But how can you make sure you’re doing it right? Here’s how to do it step-by-step:
- Sit on a comfortable chair with back support.
- Make sure the chair is in front of a dining table so you have arm support.
- Hold out your hand over the table.
- Place the machine on the table, roughly at the same level as your heart.
- Place the inflatable cuff of the blood pressure machine around your arm, about four fingers above the elbow.
- Make sure your arm is adequately supported.
- Press the “start” button, and the machine will start reading your blood pressure.
- You will feel tightening from the cuff as the machine measures your blood pressure.
- The cuff will gradually loosen, signaling that you’re done.
Once you are done, the display on the machine will show your blood pressure as systolic and diastolic numbers. The systolic reading (top number) refers to pressure exerted when your heart pumps blood around the body. The diastolic reading (bottom number) refers to pressure when the heart relaxes and refills with blood.
Some other helpful things to do to track your blood pressure include the following:
What are the different blood pressure levels?
|Systolic (mm Hg)||Diastolic (mm Hg)|
|Normal blood pressure||Less than 120||Less than 80|
|Elevated blood pressure or prehypertension||Between 120 and 129||
Less than 80
|Stage I hypertension||Between 130 and 139||Between 80 and 89|
|Stage II hypertension||140 or higher||90 or higher|
|Hypertensive crisis||Higher than 180||Higher than 120|
What happens if you have high blood pressure?
Hypertension is a serious medical condition that can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, heart attack, heart failure, vision loss, kidney disease and dementia. It is a major cause of premature death worldwide. Maintaining blood pressure under control is vital for preserving your health and reducing the risk of developing these dangerous conditions.
It can take many years to reach severe levels before symptoms to become obvious. Many times, however, symptoms may be attributed to other issues. Symptoms of severe hypertension include:
What are complications of hypertension?
Excessive pressure on the artery walls can damage the blood vessels and the heart itself. Complications caused by uncontrolled high blood pressure include:
- Heart attack or stroke: High blood pressure can cause the arteries in your heart to spasm and result in heart attack. It may also cause a blood vessel in the brain to rupture, causing a hemorrhagic stroke.
- Heart failure: Your heart has to work harder to pump blood against high pressure in the blood vessels. This causes the walls of your heart's pumping chamber to thicken (left ventricular hypertrophy) which can eventually lead to heart failure.
- Aneurysm: High blood pressure can lead to an aneurysm, or abnormal bulge in the blood vessel, which is life-threatening if it bursts.
- Kidney failure: Weakened and narrowed blood vessels in your kidneys prevent them from functioning normally.
- Vision loss: Hypertensive retinopathies in your eye can lead to blindness. This is due to leakage of fluids in the blood vessels around the eye due to high blood pressure.
- Metabolic syndrome: Metabolic syndrome is a group of disorders caused by hormone levels going haywire. These conditions are more likely to cause diabetes, heart disease and a stroke. High blood pressure can be both the cause and result of metabolic syndrome.
- Trouble with memory or understanding: Uncontrolled hypertension affects your ability to think, remember and learn or understand new concepts. This is because the blood vessels supplying blood to your brain get narrow with high blood pressure.
- Dementia: Narrowed or blocked arteries limit blood flow to your brain, leading to dementia.
Additional tests that can check for hypertension
- Ambulatory monitoring: Device is used to measure blood pressure at regular intervals over a 24-hour period that provides an accurate picture of blood pressure changes.
- Urine test: Checks for electrolytes and urinary proteins.
- Blood test: Measures electrolytes, blood urea nitrogen and creatinine levels.
- Lipid profile test: Checks cholesterol.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): Measures the heart's electrical activity.
- Echocardiogram: Uses sound waves to produce images of the heart.
- Hormone test: Measures hormone levels of the adrenal gland and thyroid.
- Eye test: Checks for ocular damage.
- Ultrasound: Examines the kidneys
- Doppler ultrasound: Examines blood flow through the arteries.