THE IMPORTANCE OF MONITORING YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE. By. Robert Cueli, MD
Sorry. I’m not referring to your financial portfolio, your stock market analysis or the lucky numbers for the lotto this week. What I would like to discuss are the vital numbers in your life, your blood pressure values. These could be more important to you and your family than all the other numbers together.
We can define your blood pressure as the force produced by the blood against the blood vessels while traveling to every corner in your body. When this pressure is elevated, it is called “high blood pressure” or “hypertension.” The blood is expressed in two measurements. Systolic and diastolic pressures, which correspond to whether the heart is contracting (systole) or relaxing and filling the chambers (diastole).
We consider a normal systolic pressure to be 100 to 140 mmhg (top or high number) and 60 to 90 mmhg (bottom or lower number). When the blood pressure is elevated (hypertension) , the heart is required to work harder to circulate the blood through the blood vessels. At the same time, it can produce damage to other organs like the kidneys, brain and heart. Hypertension is one of the major risk factors in the occurrence of strokes, heart attacks, aneurysms, heart failure and kidney damage. Hypertension is the second leading cause of patients requiring dialysis.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 67 million adults in the U.S are affected by high blood pressure. Very often, they are unaware of their condition because of a lack of symptoms. Most of the time, hypertension is “silent,” which means that patients don’t have any indication or warning of hidden problems. We are all familiar with the term “silent killer” referring to high blood pressure.
There are many factors associated with hypertension. Some – like genetics, race and aging – are out of our control. But many causes can be affected by alterations in our lifestyles. These include smoking, obesity, diabetes, high salt intake, lack of physical activity and excessive alcohol intake (more than one drink a day for women and more than two drinks for men).
The literature reveals that even a moderate elevation in blood pressure correlates to a decreased life expectancy. The maximum goal in treating hypertension is to achieve a blood pressure that is within acceptable range in order to increase health outcomes and reduce complications such as damage to the organs. According to a significant number of studies, if you’re over 18, you should have your blood pressure checked at least once a year. Good blood pressure is associated with a reduction in strokes in an average of 35-40 percent of people, heart attacks in approximately 20-25 percent, and a decrease of more than 50 percent in the occurrence of heart failure.
If you have high blood pressure, your doctor can choose one or several approaches or interventions depending on your blood pressure values, the cause and your risk factors. I’ve already mentioned some of the lifestyle changes that could help you achieve your goal, like quitting smoking, exercising more and following a healthy diet.
If these are not successful, your doctor most likely will go to the next type of treatment, which is the use of medications. Before prescribing, your doctor will take into consideration factors like age, underlying medical problems, side effects and others. Without getting into too much detail, I will give some of the most commonly used agents: diuretics, calcium channel blockers, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors and angiotensin II blocker agents. Each works differently and at different sites in your body. These agents are also associated with different side effects and diverse benefits. All these factors together are the reason why it is important to follow the advice of your physician, who possesses the proper knowledge, training and experience.
If you’re over 18, you should have your blood pressure checked at least once a year. You should follow your doctor’s recommendations to modify, treat and control possible cause of hypertension. After your blood pressure is controlled, continue with regular visits as recommended by your care provider.
Have a healthy, happy and productive life.
And: KNOW YOUR NUMBERS!