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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hypertension - What does your blood pressure tell you?

Had your blood pressure (BP) taken from your doctor lately?

You may get a reading like 120/80 millimetres of mercury. The first number represents your systolic pressure (the force with which your heart pumps blood through your blood vessels) and the second number represents your diastolic pressure (the force within your blood vessels as your heart fills with blood in preparation for the next pump).

120/80 mmHg is considered 'normal' and anything above 140/90mmHg is the beginning of different stages of hypertension. For those who are diabetic, 130/80mmg is considered mild hypertension and one should begin taking action to decrease those numbers.

Most people get their BP taken at the doctor's office and it might be artifically elevated as some people experience the notion of the "white coat syndrome" where one gets nervous (and hence BP increases) upon seeing a doctor.

The latest research actually says that an average blood pressure reading (over 24 hours) is a better gauge of predicting negative cardiovascular events than the traditional BP readings taken at the doctor's office. A little hard to do for most people as we don't have our blood pressure cuffs with us to take our readings throughout the day and night. Interestingly enough, a night time blood pressure measurement has been shown to be particularly informative.

If your night time systolic BP increases by 22 mmHg, risks for future cardiovascular events increases by 38%. A 14 mmHg jump in your night time diastolic BP increases your risk by 36%. So get your blood pressure taken by your health care practitioner, but if you're borderline hypertensive or do have high blood pressure, be sure to monitor your BP readings during the day and at night.

There are many safe and effective strategies for dealing with high blood pressure. Having a comprehensive plan to tackle this problem at its root cause should be your goal so please discuss this with your health care practitioner.

Yours in health,

Dr. Ian Koo, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathic Essentials Health Centre
"The care you want, the health you need"