Blood Pressure is the force of blood against the walls of arteries. It is created by the heart pumping blood round the body. Every year, doctors took blood pressure readings on millions of people, the accumulated data clearly show that high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, has been a major threat to health.
Globally, about one billion people have hypertension, it is the leading cause of cardiovascular diseases worldwide, and the problem is still growing. However, hypertension is a widely misunderstood medical condition, even though a large population is living and struggling with it, many people are not knowledgeable or aware of what to do. Education and awareness are key elements in battling hypertension.
Blood pressure has two readings, which is more important?
Blood pressure is typically recorded in two numbers: systolic pressure (top) over the diastolic pressure (bottom). The optimal blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg, which indicates the blood circulation is in good condition. Clinical evidence suggests that controlling the two readings is important to prevent heart attack and stroke, and both should be within the recommended healthy levels. However, doctors tend to pay more attention to the top reading than the bottom reading, because a rise systolic blood pressure will become a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease in people over 50 years old.
As we get older, systolic blood pressure tends to increase, while diastolic blood pressure tends to be the more constant figure. A high systolic blood pressure but normal or low diastolic blood pressure is called isolated systolic hypertension (ISH), which is most common in adults over 65, and yet the least treated form of hypertension.
One abnormal blood pressure reading can indicate that I have hypertension?
Since blood pressure changes according to posture, exercise, stress or sleep condition, one single high reading may not be necessarily mean that you have hypertension. Doctors usually measure several readings over time, and you may need to monitor your blood pressure at home before diagnosing with hypertension. If you get a high reading, it is advised to measure at least twice on separate days to sure whether your blood pressure is consistently high. You should also avoid caffeine and physical activity several hours before the measuring in order to get an accurate reading.
For a healthy adult, even your blood pressure is normal (below 120/80 mm Hg), the American Heart Association recommends having regular blood pressure screening every 1-2 years.
Why hypertension is risky?
Most of the time, high blood pressure appears little warning and few symptoms, people may not realize it for years until struck by a disabling stroke or a fatal heart attack, that’s why it is known as a “silent killer.”
Long standing high blood pressure results in hardening and narrowing of the arteries, makes the heart overload, which in turn affect the blood supply of the body, and cause permanent damages to organs like heart, brain, eyes and kidneys. Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart attack, heart failure, stroke, bleeding from large blood vessel, chronic kidney disease, dementia and blindness.
Medical professionals consider a reading above 120/80 mm Hg as elevated blood pressure for most people. A national survey showed that a systolic blood pressure of 115 mm Hg or above is sufficient to generate damage to the arteries and organs, and for every 20 mm Hg rise in systolic blood pressure and 10 mm Hg rise in diastolic blood pressure, the risk of cardiovascular disease are doubled.
When is high blood pressure an emergency?
For healthy people, the optimal blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg. Hypertension is defined as 140/90 mm Hg or above. Many people are monitoring their blood pressure at home, they may sometimes wonder what should they do when their usual readings are higher, and in what level should be an alert for emergency?
Obviously, poorly controlled blood pressure that reaches 180/110 mm Hg or higher should be considered as dangerous levels, however, the readings may not necessarily indicate an emergency. It is usually the patient’s condition rather than the blood pressure readings that determine if an emergency is needed.
If you have repeatedly elevated readings but feeling OK, don’t panic, call your doctor to ask for proper management. On the other hand, elevated readings with associated symptoms should rush to hospital, such as:
Severe headache, accompanied by confusion and blurred vision
Nausea and vomiting
Blood in urine
Pounding in chest, neck or ears
The above symptoms may indicate that you have a hypertensive crisis and can be associated with life-threatening complications.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) including Acupuncture and Herbs can be very effective in controlling High Blood Pressure.
Hypertension is similar to dizziness and vertigo in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It is usually thought to be caused by emotional factors, constitutional deficiencies, diet and stress that lead to an imbalance of yin and yang in the liver, spleen and kidney.
Eca Brady is a fully licensed physician of Chinese Medicine BSc(Ac) MBAcC PGDip(CHM), practicing from Harley Street, London. Make an appointment for an acupuncture treatment and we can discuss how we can help you, to read more about Eca click here.