Physicians monitor adult patients’ blood pressure at every routine visit. They strap a cuff onto the upper arm while a patient is sitting, arm at rest. The cuff pumps up either at a signal from a digital monitor or manually.
During this time, sensors inside the cuff detect two pulse rates, one higher and one lower. These two figures can signal good health or a health concern for the patient which appears, at first sight, to stem from the heart. Heart problems, however, are usually a symptom of some other issue, especially in modern western society.
The top number is your systolic pressure, defined by health professionals as pressure in arteries as the heart beats. Between each beat that pressure is also monitored, creating the bottom or diastolic number. Doctors are especially interested in the top number, especially if it rises too high.
Your systolic blood pressure should be no higher than 120. More than that could signal a health issue or the precursor to one. Your body might be starting to experience arterial stiffness or the development of plaque. There could be another medical condition at work which is causing your heart to beat too quickly. A high of 80 is good for the bottom number.
Of course, if rates are measured at rest under ordinary circumstances, a GP is expecting and hoping to see that blood pressure is strong but not high. In crisis situations, these values are bound to go up, such as after an accident or during a panic attack.
This is why medical professionals take regular readings to ensure the values do not continue to climb, potentially reaching a stage where a heart attack is imminent. They are also looking for numbers not to drop too dramatically which could be a sign of shock.
Highs and Lows
Most of the time people put the focus on high blood pressure, but low blood pressure can also be worrying. If a patient’s systolic and diastolic values are constantly low (under 90 for the top and below 60 on the bottom), a GP will ask several questions to determine if this is normal and healthy.
They often see such levels in athletes and small adults with a healthy BMI, not so much in overweight people. If blood pressure is too low and is causing a health concern such as dizziness or confusion, the doctor will recommend medication.
Symptoms of High Blood Pressure
You might suspect that blood pressure is a problem due to recurring symptoms. Your breathing is rapid and you get out of breath after minimal exertion. Sharp chest pains now and then pique your concern but disappear as quickly as they started. Patients might experience dizziness or panic.
Preventing High Blood Pressure
Unless a person suffers from a genetic condition affecting the heart, doctors can usually pinpoint lifestyle choices affecting one’s cardiac health. The rate of obesity is staggeringly high in North America: being overweight is the first clue that blood pressure will be too high.
Sedentary activities are also making patients sick. They sit too long at work, enjoy hobbies where they don’t move enough (playing video games, watching movies, reading).
Regular, possibly excessive alcohol consumption could also be causing a person to suffer from high blood pressure. All such situations should be addressed before medical intervention, such as medication or surgery, is required.