What is hypertension?
Hypertension is the medical term used to describe high blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force of the blood pumped from the heart against the blood vessels. This force makes blood flow possible, delivering nutrients and oxygen to organs and tissues throughout the body.
Hypertension occurs when there is too much pressure in your blood vessels. This can damage your blood vessels and cause health problems like artery, kidney and heart disease. Anyone can develop high blood pressure, but it becomes more common as you get older.
Hypertension Canada is a great online resource for patient education: hypertension.ca/hypertension-and-you/
How do we measure blood pressure?
Home blood pressure (BP) readings are the best way to know if you have hypertension or not. If your BP is normal at the doctor's office that probably means you are fine. But what if it's high? The answer is: maybe, maybe not. Maybe the stress and worry of going to the doctor's office raises your BP. That’s what we call "white coat syndrome"
It might lead us into treating patients who don't need treatment.
Home BP monitors today are excellent and inexpensive. It is worth the trouble to buy or borrow one if you wonder about your blood pressure.
Hypertension Canada defines hypertension as a blood pressure of more than 135/85 based on an average of HOME readings. I repeat: HOME readings. The recommended way to record your BP is the following.
No caffeine or nicotine for 30 minutes
Sit comfortably and rest for 5 minutes
Record 2 readings in the morning and 2 readings in the evening
Repeat over 7 days and calculate the average.
An excellent tool I always recommend is Sphygmo. Install it on your phone. You can easily enter the results. If your BP monitor is Bluetooth connected it will do so automatically. Sphygmo immediately calculates the average of your readings. If your doctor has the application your just enter their link code and they can follow your progress. This is especially important if we want to monitor to make the diagnosis or to see what response we get with treatment. (BTW Sphygmo also logs glucose readings if you have diabetes)
Doctors really only should be measuring BP if someone is sick or if there is a reason to be suspicious; NOT as a routine.
If you wonder why I don't check your BP routinely it's because I don't rely on that number as much as home readings. With home readings I am more confident in deciding if you have hypertension or not, whether you need treatment or not, and whether the treatment is really working.