You’re probably fairly used to the process of getting your blood pressure checked on virtually every visit to your doctor’s office. You sit down in a chair, are told how to position your arm and you sit and wait as the cuff gives your arm a good squeeze. Usually, the nurse recites off two numbers, records them in your file and says everything is good to go. Maybe you do the same for yourself with an at-home blood pressure machine and every so often measure your blood pressure to ensure it stays within the normal range. So, what happens when you check your blood pressure one day and you have a high reading?
Dr. Iva Smolens, cardiac surgeon at Banner Heart Hospital, explains that if you perform an isolated, one-time blood pressure reading that indicates high blood pressure, you should have it checked with your doctor within the week. Dr. Smolens further explains that a high blood pressure diagnosis is likely to be made after you and your doctor find that your blood pressure is high more than 3 times within the week. If this occurs, you should check with your doctor for consultation options.
What is considered a high blood pressure reading?
If you’re new to performing your own blood pressure readings, it can be helpful to understand what exactly your blood pressure reading is telling you. Your reading will be comprised of two numbers. The American Heart Association explains that the top number represents your systolic pressure or the pressure when your heart beats. The bottom number represents your diastolic pressure which is the pressure when your heart is in between beats.
For the average adult, a normal blood pressure reading is below 120 over 80 (120/80 mm Hg). If you have higher than normal blood pressure, it can range anywhere from elevated blood pressure to hypertensive crisis. According to Healthline, a person with elevated pressure may just need to adapt a healthier lifestyle to get their pressure to a healthy range, while hypertensive crisis warrants a trip to the emergency room. Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure and there are various degrees of severity which will impact what type of treatment plan your doctor prescribes.
What medication is prescribed to treat high blood pressure?
Once diagnosed with high blood pressure, you and your doctor will discuss the best treatment options. If your doctor decides to prescribe you with a medication, it can be comforting to understand the different types of blood pressure medication available and what each of them do.
- Diuretics: help rid the body of excess sodium and water
- Beta blockers: help reduce heart rate, your heart’s workload and its output of blood
- ACE inhibitors: help your blood vessels relax and open
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers: help keep your blood vessels open
- Calcium channel blockers: blocks calcium from entering the smooth muscle cells of the heart and arteries which keeps the heart from contracting too forcefully
- Alpha blockers: reduce resistance in the arteries and relax the muscle tone of the vascular walls
- Alpha-2 receptor agonists: decrease the activity of the sympathetic nervous system and present fewer risk factors for pregnant women
- Combined alpha and beta-blockers: are used as an IV drip for those in hypertensive crisis or could be prescribed if patient is at risk of heart failure
- Central agonists: help prevent blood vessels from tensing up or contracting
- Peripheral adrenergic inhibitors: help block the neurotransmitters to the brain that tell the smooth muscles to constrict and are typically only used if other medications are not helping
- Blood vessel dilators: help blood to flow better by causing the walls of blood vessels to relax and allowing the vessels to widen
Each class of medications is accompanied by possible side effects and your doctor will work to determine which medication is right for you.
Can you treat high blood pressure naturally?
In addition to medications to treat high blood pressure, your doctor will likely recommend you take some steps to living a healthier lifestyle. Medical News Today shares some things you can do to help naturally lower your blood pressure alongside your prescribed course of treatment:
- Get regular exercise
- Reduce your salt intake
- Reduce your caffeine intake
- Consume less alcohol
- Eat less processed foods and more fresh, whole foods
- Lower your stress levels
- Lose weight
- Quit smoking
Although seeing a high blood pressure reading for the first time can be scary, talking with your doctor is the first step to preventing any more serious complications. For help finding a doctor, visit: bannerhealth.com/physician-directory
Interested to learn about your heart risk? Check out our heart age test.