Blood Pressure Explained
Blood pressure varies constantly throughout the day and ideally, should be about 120/80.
Readings over 138/89 are considered high.
When the heart is squeezing blood into the arteries, the pressure is high and when the heart is relaxed, the pressure is lower.
Testing blood pressure gives your health practitioner information about the health of your arteries and cardiovascular system.
As you age, consistently high blood pressure (hypertension) is one of the main risk factors for heart disease and can lead to a heart attack, stroke or kidney dysfunction.
Conversely, some people suffer from hypotension, which is low blood pressure.
Your blood pressure is taken by your doctor using a sphygmomanometer.
There are generally two types – automatic and manual.
Most doctors prefer to use automatic as it self inflates and will also record your pulse and can detect irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias).
Regardless of which type of sphygmomanometer your health professional uses, you will still have a material cuff placed around your upper arm that is inflated to temporarily suspend blood flow to your arm.
If your doctor is testing your blood pressure manually, he will also have a stethoscope under the sphygmomanometer cuff.
This allows him to hear the first rush of blood back into your arm (systolic) and when the pressure is normalised (diastolic).
Measuring blood pressure is a useful, non-invasive way to check on cardiovascular function.
Make sure you try to relax before you have your blood pressure taken.
You can do this by taking 3 slow, deep breaths and if you still feel nervous, please mention this to your health care practitioner.
White Coat Syndrome (feeling nervous around doctors) is real and it can raise your blood pressure resulting in a false reading.
Causes of Hypertension and Hypotension
Hypertension is greatly influenced by:
- Alcohol intake
- Physical activity
- Family history
- Weight gain
Hypotension is generally a reading under 90/60 and thought to be the result of:
- Disorder of the endocrine system
- Chronic pain
- Cardiac abnormality such as a heart murmur
Not everyone who has high blood pressure will have symptoms.
Other people may present with:
- Headaches / migraines
- Inability to concentrate
- Pressure in the neck and head
- Constant irritability
Symptoms of hypotension include:
- Blurry vision
- Pale and clammy skin
Most doctors will counsel you to take a healthier approach to life and make dietary suggestions.
They may also suggest that you take medication.
Blood pressure medications don’t cure high blood pressure –they only help to control it and quite often you are recommended to stay on them for life.
From a naturopathic perspective, this is masking a symptom and not addressing the true cause of hypertension.
What we aim to do is identify areas of weakness in your diet and lifestyle and work on changing them so you can achieve better health
Unfortunately, for those suffering hypotension, there are no medications.
However, symptoms may be improved by ensuring proper hydration and looking at dietary salts.