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Hypertension by Dr.Iain Corness


Is your blood pressure about to blow the top of your head off?

One of the mandatory tests at my hospital, when you see a doctor, is a blood pressure reading, usually denoted as “BP”. Now I take blood pressure tablets to keep my BP within the normal range, which they do, (provided I take them)!

For many reasons, including forgetfulness, I had not taken any for over a week. When I remembered I had forgotten, I popped into one of the Out Patients Clinics and got the nurse to take my BP. It was 158/87. Too high. I need to remember to take my tablets! However, about 30 minutes later I had my BP checked again. This time 147/76. Much better, but still marginally up. How could this be? Was the machine wrong?

No, the machine was not wrong, but what you have to understand is that BP is not a constant, but fluctuates for many reasons – rushing, coffee, anxiety, cigarettes and a whole host of others. This is why, if your doctor tells you that you have “hypertension” (high BP) on just one reading – don’t believe him (or her).

So how do you find out if your BP is too high? Quite simply by repeated measurements. Just as one swallow doesn’t make a summer, one elevated reading does not necessarily mean hypertension.

As part of the routine in most good hospitals and clinics is the measurement of your blood pressure. You should get this done at least twice a year. Rising or elevated readings do mean you should get medical advice.

So why is BP important? Because if you don’t have BP you are definitely dead! However, if your BP is too high, it can mean you could be claiming early on your life insurance policy – or your relatives will, on your behalf.

High BP is otherwise known as the “silent killer” as there are very few symptoms of the increase in blood pressure, until a vessel bursts somewhere, generally catastrophically! The good thing is you are dead within minutes, so you won’t linger.

So what is the correct BP? The following table shows the categories of BP measurements.
Optimal: less than 120/80
Normal: less than 130/80
High-normal: 130–139/85–89
High blood pressure (hypertension):
Stage 1: 140–159/90–99
Stage 2: 160–179/100–109
Stage 3: 180 or higher/110 or higher
Now, if you really have hypertension, get it treated – but remember to have repeated measurements done, and don’t let the doctor classify you as being “hypertensive” until repeated measurements confirm that your BP is too high.