By Dr Harold Gunatillake - Health Writer
Most Lankans in Sri Lanka don’t seem to understand the gravity of not checking their blood pressure on a regular basis, when you grow older. Most people visit aurvedic physicians and herbalists for their minor ailments and do not get the opportunity to check their BP, more in rural areas
What is blood pressure?
Oxygenated purified blood reaches the left side of the heart from the lungs. This purified blood is distributed to every cell in the body through minute capillaries- branches of the peripheral arteries.
The pumping pressure created by the left lower chamber of the heart creates a force called the systolic blood pressure responsible for the distribution of nutrients
The peripheral arteries and its branches are very elastic during youth, and there is no strain on the heart to pump blood into such elastic expansible blood vessels. With age it is natural for these blood vessels to get thickened (arteriosclerosis) and resist the pressure created by the heart. We refer to this as ‘peripheral resistance’ of the arteries. The degree of thickening of these respective arteries depends on genetic factors and subsequent life styles.
The second pressure we call, ‘diastolic’ is created by the peripheral resistance of the arteries caused during the filling phase of blood into the left lower chamber of the heart preparing for the next squeeze. It is very important to check both the systolic and diastolic blood pressures. Furthermore, it is also important to know the pulse rate (heart rate) which forms part of the assessment of the health of the cardio-vascular system.
Few decades back we were made to understand that the systolic BP should read less than your age plus 100 and your diastolic should be consistent at 70mm.Hg.
Today, the systolic should be stabilized at less than 130mm.Hg for men and 120mm.Hg for women at any age. Diastolic pressure should range between 70-80 mm. Hg, or even less.
Most Sri Lankan doctors don’t tell their patients what their respective blood pressures readings are. Even when the doctor is asked, he would shake his head and say, “it is okay for your age”. This is not of course practice of good medicine, by any standards.
Rise of blood pressure is gradual
So, it is important to check your blood pressure regularly to keep it within the normal range at all times.
Ensure correct readings:
Breathe quietly and don’t move during recording.
Your doctor will check your blood pressure whilst sitting and standing. In postural hypotension there is a variance of over 10mmHg during both postures. There is nothing to worry about as it is physiological as you age.
Rechecking blood pressure:
Did you know that even if your BP is within the normal range for your age 55, you still have 90% chance of developing high blood pressure down the road?
Controlling your BP without drugs
Lifestyle changes can impact your blood pressure:
Through these lifestyle changes you assist your body to help its mechanism to alter or maintain blood pressure and blood flow. There are sensors that sense blood pressure in the walls of the arteries and send signals to the heart, the arterioles, the veins, and the kidneys that cause them to make changes that lower or increase blood pressure.
If you have a family history of high BP you need to be extra careful to change your lifestyle for the better regulation.
Conclusions: It is important that you check your blood pressure regularly by having your own machine at home. Avoid risk factors mentioned earlier and you may not need anti-hypertensive medication the majority of the people need to take.
It would please you to control your blood pressure to prevent strokes and heart failure, so common due to neglect of checking BP.
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