No symptoms, no signs
Essentially, high blood pressure has no symptoms. By the time most people develop noticeable signs or symptoms, their lives may be in danger because their blood pressure is at a dangerously high level. You can develop nosebleeds, headaches, chest pain, and shortness of breath because of hypertension, but by that stage, your life may be at risk.
Routine blood pressure testing
If you’re like most people, you’re likely familiar with the blood pressure cuff from visits to your doctor when they or nurse take your vital signs. Though not really considered a vital sign, blood pressure testing is part of the routine simply because it’s the only way to tell if levels are elevated.
The two numbers in a blood pressure reading reflect the highest pressure in your arteries when your heart pumps (systolic), and the lowest pressure between heartbeats (diastolic). A reading of 120 systolic over 80 diastolic or less is a normal, healthy level for blood pressure.
If your systolic number is between 120 and 129, but the diastolic pressure remains at 80 or less, you have elevated blood pressure. It’s not a dangerous condition, but it may be an early warning.
Where you stand with hypertension
When your cuff readings are between 130 to 139 systolic, and 80 to 89 diastolic, you’ve reached Stage 1 hypertension. It’s important to know that your blood pressure reading can be elevated due to a reaction to the events of the day, the food you’ve eaten, or stress you’re under. A single high reading won’t result in a high blood pressure diagnosis.
Even if you reach 140 or higher systolic, and 90 or higher diastolic, known as Stage 2 hypertension, you’ll have to maintain similar readings over three or more separate appointments before you’re diagnosed. However, any elevated reading might mean it’s time to start conservative steps to keep your readings down.
Controlling your blood pressure
When you’re concerned about rising blood pressure levels, adding a home monitor is an easy and affordable way to get proactive. You can take blood pressure readings daily, or throughout the day, to gain a better insight into how and why your numbers change.
You might be surprised by how much small changes can affect your blood pressure readings, particularly if you’re diagnosed early. Meditation and controlled breathing can, for example, lower both systolic and diastolic numbers in a few minutes, between tests.
Adding bigger changes, such as more physical activity, healthy changes to your diet, or quitting smoking can help lower numbers substantially. In addition to lifestyle changes, there are medications available to assist your efforts.
Discuss your numbers with your doctor at Eastern Connecticut Cardiology and learn what it means for your health. If you’re not regularly screened for high blood pressure, contact any of our four offices by phone or using the online booking tool. Waiting for symptoms to show up is dangerous and potentially deadly.