Measure your blood pressure at home | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 17, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, May 17, 2008

World Hypertension Day

Measure your blood pressure at home

Hypertension has emerged as global epidemic that affects over 1.5 billion people worldwide. It is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, kidney and eye diseases. Hypertension may kill you silently as it does not typically cause symptoms. Many hypertensive people are not aware of it and do not take proper action to prevent the impending dangers created by it.
In order to encourage patients and people at risk to measure their blood pressure regularly at home and curb the hypertension related disorders, World Hypertension Day is being observed today throughout the world. The day strives to create awareness worldwide to highlight the risks associated with hypertension and to communicate information on prevention, detection, treatment and control.
The theme for this year is “Measure your blood pressure at home”. The theme emphasises the importance of being aware of one’s blood pressure and taking responsibility of one’s own health. Measuring blood pressure at home helps individuals and the caregivers understand how blood pressure could be controlled on a day-to-day basis through lifestyle changes and appropriate therapies and medication.
A blood pressure reading is expressed as two numbers and measured in millimeters of Mercury (mm Hg). The top number is systolic pressure — it is the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. The bottom number is diastolic pressure — the pressure in arteries when the heart is resting between beats.
Normal blood pressure is systolic below 120 and diastolic below 80. Hypertension is systolic blood pressure at or above 140 mm Hg and/or diastolic blood pressure at 90 mm Hg or higher.
“Prehypertension” is systolic pressure of 120–139 mm Hg, and/or diastolic pressure of 80–89 mm Hg. This is the point at which lifestyle changes are recommended to reduce blood pressure.
Some studies suggest that a small decrease in the blood pressure significantly lowers the risk of developing diseases. One meta-analysis on 1 million patients suggests that a 3–4 mm Hg systolic increase in blood pressure would translate into a 20 percent higher stroke death rate and a 12 percent higher death rate from ischemic heart disease.
In patients with additional risk factors, including obesity, diabetes and hyperlipidemia, the impact of these small changes in blood pressure on cerebro vascular disease (CVD) is even greater.
There is often no single cause of high blood pressure. A number of factors can combine to raise blood pressure. High blood pressure tends to run in families. Being overweight, having a high consumption of alcohol, poor level of exercise, high stress level and eating too much sodium (found in salt) may lead to an increase in blood pressure. Blood pressure also increases with age.
There is no cure for high blood pressure, but it is controllable usually with lifestyle modifications and medication if indicated. A big reason for the gap between knowledge and action for blood pressure control is — it remains asymptomatic in many cases; that is why it is called the silent killer and there is a long lag period from the beginning of the problem to the time when patients are aware of the damage it caused.
“High blood pressure can be easily detected and usually it is controllable. World Hypertension Day is an opportunity to remind us and to pay more attention to this risk factor”, said Dr M H Millat, Consulted Cardiac Surgeon of Square Hospitals Ltd. “We have affordable and easy ways to treat high blood pressure. If that knowledge was applied more often, we could prevent much more death and disabilities”, he added.
The main message for the public, Dr Millat said, is to have your blood pressure checked routinely and to live a healthy lifestyle to prevent hypertension. If you are over 30 years you should check your blood pressure once every year and if you have a positive family history of hypertension or have other risk factors you should check more frequently.
Key messages are keeping weight in a good range, being physically active, eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables and low in saturated fat, sodium, avoiding tobacco and excess alcohol drinking. If you already have high blood pressure, pay attention to keep it controlled under a physician’s care.
So, be aware, get your blood pressure checked regularly. Knowing your numbers is the fist step to prevent hypertension, subsequently to prevent heart disease, stroke, kidney and eye diseases.

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