In this new DocTalk video, Nathan W. Anderson, MD, Family Medicine at ARC Bastrop explains the reasons that everyone should know their blood pressure numbers. Dr. Anderson talks about the health ramifications of living with hypertension, or high blood pressure, in terms that are easy to understand.
Dr. Anderson also addresses how to take your blood pressure at home, ways to lower your blood pressure without medication, and when you should discuss your numbers with your physician. He says, "If you think you have high blood pressure you should see your doctor. This is one of the reasons it's so important to go to your annual physical -- we check your blood pressure and if it's elevated, we can discuss what you can do to lower it."
Watch the video here, or read the transcript from the video below.
Hypertension is elevated pressures in the central arteries around your heart. Other names for hypertension are high blood pressure or some people just call it high pressures. It is important for us to understand blood pressure because blood pressure can cause a lot of changes in our heart and in our kidneys that can be problematic later on in life. Normal blood pressure has classically been defined as 120 over 70. The top number is the systolic number, which is when your heart contracts, and the bottom number is the diastolic number which is when your heart relaxes. Usually, our goal for everyone is 140 over 90 when we are treating hypertension, but the goal might be lower for people who have pre-existing conditions such as kidney problems or heart problems.
When I describe to patients what the risks are of high blood pressure, I usually describe an irrigation system for a lawn. If the pressure is high in the pipes, then you have problems with the pump because the pump is pushing against that pressure. You can also have problems with the filters in that system because the pressure is pushing on those filters. In that analogy the pump is your heart, and your filters are your kidneys. So, the problems that can happen from long-term high blood pressure are heart failure or kidney failure.
Taking your blood pressure at home
Blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day depending on what you're doing and what time of day it is. If you are running around your blood pressure is going to be much higher than if you are seated comfortably and relaxed. Many people's blood pressure spikes when they're in the doctor's office; we call this white coat hypertension. If this happens, we may have you take some blood pressure readings at home so that we have a general idea of what it is normally. What I tell my patients at home when they take their blood pressure is to be seated for two full minutes relaxed with your legs uncrossed and your blood pressure cuff at the level of your heart which usually means on the dining room table.
Lowering your blood pressure
Some people have symptoms of very high blood pressure like headaches or dizziness but often people don't know unless their blood pressure is very high. If you want to lower your blood pressure without taking medications, you can try decreasing the amount of salt in your diet or you can try to increase your daily exercise.
See your doctor
If you think you have high blood pressure you should see your doctor. This is one of the reasons it's so important to go to your annual physical -- we check your blood pressure and if it's elevated, we can discuss what you can do to lower it. If it's elevated at multiple subsequent visits, we can talk about medication. If you're concerned about your blood pressure or maybe it runs in your family, it's a great idea to come and see your family medicine doctor at ARC or come and get an annual exam.
Make an appointment today
Dr. Anderson is currently accepting new patients. If you would like to make an appointment, call ARC Bastrop at 512-308-4311, or schedule an appointment online.