Who doesn't like an 'easy win'??
Why is it useful to know your blood pressure? In medical speak, blood pressure is "one of the four modifiable cardiovascular risk factors". More simply put, managing your blood pressure is a relatively 'easy win’, if you would like to minimise your chances of having a stroke or heart attack! Do we have your attention now?
Many people have no symptoms of high blood pressure, so getting a test, even if you feel 'fit as a fiddle', is the only way to know for sure.
What do the numbers mean?
Blood pressure readings come in the form of 2 numbers. The first, higher number is the systolic pressure, when your heart pushes blood around your body. The second lower number is the diastolic pressure, when your heart relaxes. A text book normal blood pressure would be 120/80 which means 120 systolic over 80 diastolic, and a systolic number over 140 or a diastolic number over 90 (on single readings) would be considered high blood pressure. The diastolic and the systolic numbers are equally important, so even if you are just high in one of the other, it’s worth investigating.
Testing your blood pressure at home or in clinic
Monitoring your blood pressure need not be expensive, and can be free via one of the many testing centres, including your NHS GP, where there might even be a monitor in the waiting room. However, testing from home has many advantages including convenience, and removing the possible impact of ‘white coat syndrome’. Omron make excellent home BP monitors which can be bought online or from your local chemist for under £40.
How to test
When monitoring yourself, we suggest taking 2 readings in the morning, 2 in the afternoon, over 5 days. You should be seated at rest. Take the average of all the systolic readings and the average of all the diastolic readings over that period, to give you an average overall reading. Happily, Winchester GP has put together a spreadsheet template, which you can download here- if you just pop your numbers in to the relevant columns it will do the maths-ing for you! If the average systolic number is higher than 135, and/or if the average diastolic number is above 85, this would be considered an elevated reading and worth managing. (Remember, diastolic and systolic are equally important) Don’t panic- there’s lots that can be done, both through lifestyle changes and/or medication. Just book an appointment with a friendly empathetic GP, and let them explain the options to you. Happy measuring!!