Why Is an Accurate Blood Pressure Reading So Important?
Hypertension is a known as “the silent killer” among medical professionals. It got the infamous nickname because high blood pressure is a primary or contributing cause of numerous serious medical emergencies, as well as over 7.5 million deaths worldwide every year (this is about 12.8% of the total of all disease-related deaths).
As a contributing factor, hypertension significantly increases the risk of stroke, chronic heart failure and heart attack. The risk of all of these serious heart conditions can be significantly lowered with early and continuous BP management.
Over the past few years, the guidelines for hypertension have been modified, and any BP reading over 130/80 is considered to be hypertension.
This is how hypertension is classified:
- If your systolic blood pressure (the higher number) is between 130-139 and the diastolic one (the lower number) is from 80 to 89, then you have Stage 1 hypertension.
- Stage 2 hypertension is diagnosed when the systolic measurement is above 140, and the diastolic one is over 90.
- Any measurement over 180/120 is considered a medical emergency if it is accompanied by dizziness, shortness of breath and chest pain. In these cases it is mandatory to go to the nearest emergency room and seek medical attention, as the risk of stroke and heart attack is extremely high.
The most important thing to remember is that managing blood pressure is, luckily, an achievable task, and most patients suffering from hypertension can prevent the adverse effects of the disease, if caught early.
Apart from taking medication, a few lifestyle choices can also help manage your blood pressure. Here are some of the major habits that can affect the accuracy of a BP reading and increase your blood pressure. We also wrote previously about some methods of lowering blood pressure.
Foods and Supplements
What we ingest into our bodies influences our health, and some foods, herbs and supplements have been known for increasing blood pressure. Here are the most common ones.
- Ingredients found in herb and nutritional supplements, including, but not limited to licorice and valerian root, can raise one’s blood pressure. Bring a bottle of your supplement of choice to your doctor and let him scan the ingredients list for substances that can potentially raise blood pressure.
- Some foods can interact with specific medications and hike up your blood pressure, too. A group of antidepressants called monoamine-oxidase inhibitors in combination with tyramine-rich foods, for example, have that specific effect. These foods include aged cheeses, smoked and cured meats and fermented foods (such as soy sauce, kimchi, olives, etc.).
The major culprits are coffee and alcohol, but other drinks containing high levels of caffeine, such as green tea extract and matcha can also be dangerous, as all of the above-mentioned drinks give you an adrenaline boost.
Adrenaline, in turn, raises the systolic blood pressure and heart rate, but decreases the diastolic blood pressure. That's why some people can feel their heart pounding after drinking a lot of caffeinated drinks. Needless to say, this can be dangerous to people whose blood pressure is already too high and especially those at risk of a heart attack.
That being said, in most cases, the effect is very dose dependent, and most people won't even notice an adverse effect after drinking a cup of coffee or a drink. For most people with hypertension, it is still acceptable to drink coffee and even some alcohol. Doctors suggest to limit your intake of coffee and alcohol in the following manner:
- Limit caffeine to less than 300 milligrams (mg) a day (2-3 cups of coffee), in a day
- Drink no more than 1 drink if you’re a woman, and no more than 2 if you’re a man.
Unreliable Blood Pressure Readings
Some people may end up with unnecessary or inadequate doses of blood pressure medications because of a phenomenon called “white coat hypertension”.
These are the patients who get nervous when they’re at the doctor’s office, which, once again, makes their bodies secret adrenaline and raises their blood pressure. This results in an inaccurate reading and possible a misdiagnosis.
To avoid this, doctors often suggest measuring your blood pressure at home, possibly even several times, in different positions and at different times of the day. Record the measurements and bring them to your doctor.
How to measure blood pressure at home:
1. Make sure you’re using a reliable device.
2. Prepare for a measurement by emptying your bladder and not smoking or drinking coffee 30 minutes before the reading.
3. For the most accurate reading, take your blood pressure twice: once after sitting down a few minutes before the reading, and another time after standing up for a few minutes. BP measurements while standing are especially beneficial for those who experience dizziness, as a standing position can raise the blood pressure in some cases.
Over-the-counter (OCT) Medications and Birth Control
Few people know that certain OTC medications can spike up your blood pressure.
Some of these include anti-inflammatory medications, such as naproxen (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Advil). Several decongestant medications used for a stuffy nose can also raise blood pressure. A safer option for pain relief would be drugs containing acetaminophen (Tylenol), which don’t usually affect blood pressure.
Prescription medications are also known to increase blood pressure. Such drugs include:
- birth control pills
- drugs used to treat cancer and mental illness.
Never stop taking prescription medications without consulting a doctor because it can be life-threatening. Rather, share your concerns with your doctor and they will likely replace your prescription medications with a safer alternative.
In fact, this is exactly why we provide all of this information: for you to get the best treatment and to communicate with your healthcare provider in a comprehensive and intelligent manner.
Disclaimer! All the content in this article is provided for information purposes only, don’t discontinue or start taking any medications without a proper diagnosis by a professional.