High blood pressure (also known as Hypertension) is a primary risk factor for the development of coronary artery disease (where the arteries struggle to supply the heart with enough blood, oxygen and nutrients). High blood pressure is often asymptomatic, meaning that you have no symptoms, it is vital that you have your blood pressure checked on a regular basis. For some people, there is no identifiable cause for their high blood pressure, some people are able to maintain a healthy blood pressure through diet and exercise.

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What Is ‘Normal’ Blood Pressure?

Accessible healthcare means different things to different people. 

  • Normal blood pressure as less than 120/80,  
  • Elevated blood pressure as 120-129/ 84, 
  • High-normal 130-139/85-89,
  • Grade 1 (mild) hypertension as 140-159/ 90-99, 
  • Grade 2 (moderate) hypertension as 160-179/ 100-109,   
  • Grade 3 (severe) hypertension as greater than or equal to 180/110,

High blood pressure is generally not diagnosed with one reading unless your blood pressure is dangerously highIt takes two consecutive high blood pressure readings at separate medical appointments to confirm a diagnosis of hypertension. There are many factors that contribute to high blood pressure such as family history, dietary habits, and lifestyle factors.

8 Ways To Ensure An Accurate Blood Pressure Reading

To ensure an accurate blood pressure reading you can prepare in these simple ways:

1. Go to the bathroom before the test.

When your bladder is full, this can put pressure on the kidneys causing a temporary increase in your blood pressure.

2. Do not drink coffee or any beverage that contains caffeine

In the thirty minutes prior to having your blood pressure checked, do not drink coffee or any other drink that contains caffeine. Caffeine can temporarily increase your reading. 

3. Do not smoke

For the same reason as caffeine, in the 30 minutes prior to your blood pressure reading you should also not smoke. 

4. Do not exercise

For the same reason as caffeine and smoking, in the 30 minutes prior to your reading you should also not exercise. 

5. Don’t talk while your blood pressure reading is being taken

Speaking can cause temporary changes in your heart rate and blood pressure. When you talk, you are expending energy and engaging your respiratory system, which can lead to fluctuations in blood pressure. These fluctuations can interfere with the measurement and result in inaccurate readings. 

6. Rest for at least 5 minutes prior to having your blood pressure checked

When you’re active or engaged in activities, your blood pressure may be temporarily elevated due to physical exertion or emotional stress. Resting for a few minutes allows your blood pressure to stabilisee and return to a more typical baseline level. 

7. Sit in a chair, do not cross your legs, your feet on the floor.

Crossing your legs can impede blood flow in your legs and affect the distribution of blood in your body. This can lead to inaccurate blood pressure readings because it alters the pressure and volume of blood in the arteries, potentially resulting in artificially elevated readings. 

Maintaining a consistent position for blood pressure measurements is important for accurate comparisons over time. By having your feet flat on the floor you can ensure that readings are taken under similar conditions during each visit. 

8. Rest your arm on a table at the level of your heart

This ensures the blood is not fighting gravity to reach the blood pressure cuff. If your arm is above your heart it can artificially raise your blood pressure reading because your heart is working harder. 

What Happens If I Am Diagnosed With High Blood Pressure?

If you receive two consecutive high blood pressure readings at separate medical appointments, your primary healthcare provider will speak to you about lifestyle changes before prescribing medication. The common discussions that are had include 

1. Regular physical exercise

Can result in a reduction in blood pressure as much as as much as 5–7 mmHg (Hegde & Solomon, 2015). To benefit from exercise, one should participate in 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day (Mayo Clinic, 10 drug-free ways to control high blood pressure 2022). 

2. Reducing the amount of salt in your diet:

According to the World Health organization, adults should limit their daily salt intake to 2000 mg of salt per day (Salt reduction, 2023). There are many ways one can reduce the amount of salt in one’s diet. The first thing is to read labels. Canned foods and processed food have high salt contents. Do not add extra salt to your food. Use spices, herbs, and salt substitutes to add additional flavor to your foods.

3. Eat a healthy diet

“Eating a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and low in saturated fat and cholesterol can lower high blood pressure by up to 11 mm Hg” (Mayo Clinic, 10 drug-free ways to control high blood pressure 2022). 

4. Limiting your alcohol intake

For individuals with high blood pressure, limiting their daily alcohol intake can help to reduce their blood pressure. According to the American Heart Association, men should limit their daily alcohol consumption to two standard drinks per day and women to one standard drink per day. A standard drink equates to one 12-ounce beer with 5% alcohol content, an 8-ounce malt liquor with 7% alcohol content, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80 proof (Limiting alcohol to manage high blood pressure, 2023). Unfortunately, it is a myth that drinking red wine is good for one’s heart health since there is no real scientific data to prove or disprove this claim.  

5. Getting a good night’s sleep

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), individuals with irregular sleep schedules are at risk of developing high blood pressure. The AHA recommends that adults aim to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep on a nightly basis. (Irregular sleep schedule linked to high blood pressure, 2023). Not only can a lack of regular sleep put one at risk for hypertension, but this can also increase your risk for other medical conditions such as Type II Diabetes and stroke.

6. Reducing the amount of stress in your life

Long term emotional stress has been linked to high blood pressure. Although stress itself does not cause high blood pressure, it does result in repeated episodes of high blood pressure which can lead to hypertension. There are several ways that one can reduce stress. Exercise, yoga, and acupuncture have been shown to help reduce blood pressure. Avoiding stress triggers and taking time to relax can also help to reduce one’s blood pressure.

7. Stopping smoking

While it is unclear if smoking causes a permanent rise in your blood pressure, after each cigarette there is a temporary rise in your blood pressure and heart rate for about 20 minutes. These temporary increases in your blood pressure can result in damage to your heart and overall health.

8. Weight loss

One of the most effective ways to decrease your blood pressure is to lose weight. Having excess weight around your waistline can result in an elevation in your blood pressure. According to the mayo Clinic (Mayo Clinic, 10 drug-free ways to control high blood pressure 2022), “Men are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 40 inches (102 centimeters). Women are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 35 inches (89 centimeters).

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Hegde, S. M., & Solomon, S. D. (2015). Influence of physical activity on hypertension and cardiac structure and function. Current Hypertension Reports, 17(10).
Limiting alcohol to manage high blood pressure. (2023, June 5). Reference Link
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022, July 12). 10 drug-free ways to control high blood pressure. Mayo Clinic. 
Whelton, P. K., Carey, R. M., Mancia, G., Kreutz, R., Bundy, J. D., & Williams, B. (2022). Harmonization of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association and European Society of Cardiology/European Society of Hypertension Blood Pressure/hypertension guidelines: Comparisons, reflections, and recommendations. Circulation, 146(11), 868–877. Reference Link
World Health Organization. (2023, September 14). Salt reduction. World Health Organization. Reference Link

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