Blood Pressure – The Silent Killer part 1
What Is High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure is when your blood pressure reading is higher than what is considered acceptable for good health. It may be indicated by a raised systolic blood pressure reading, a raised diastolic blood pressure reading, or both. As blood pressure readings can vary throughout the day, a once-off raised reading is not of any major significance. However, repeated raised blood pressure readings, ideally averaged over a 24-hour period using a 24-hour blood pressure monitor, can easily indicate high blood pressure.
How Common is lt?
High blood pressure is very common and is one of the leading risk factors for heart disease and stroke in the Western world. It can affect up to one in every four middle-aged Irish men and about one in every two Irish men aged over 65.
High blood pressure is one of those medical conditions that follows a rule known as ‘the rule of halves’. This means that about half of all people with high blood pressure remain undiagnosed and do not know they have it. This includes a lot of Irish men who haven’t been to the doctor for years because they ‘feel fine’. About half of those diagnosed are not treated and only about half of those who get treatment have their treatment properly controlled according to best practice guidelines. Therefore, as few as one in eight people with high blood pressure have their condition properly diagnosed, treated and controlled. There are many complex reasons why this rule of halves exists; these include the reluctance amongst Irish men to go to the doctor, the lack of emphasis on prevention in healthcare and the resistance of many men to taking medication when they don’t feel sick.
How Do I Know If I Have High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure is often known as a silent disease because there may be no symptoms whatsoever. A person with high blood pressure feels well, looks well and rarely has any symptoms. Indeed, unless a man goes for a check-up and has his blood pressure checked, he may never know he has high blood pressure until it is too late.
If your blood pressure reading is up then several readings on different occasions are needed to confirm that your blood pressure is indeed elevated. Some men suffer from what is known as the ‘white-coat effect’, whereby anxiety due to unease or insecurity when going to the doctor can cause the blood pressure to temporarily go up. Taking readings on different occasions can sometimes help overcome this white-coat effect. However, the most accurate way to diagnose high blood pressure now is to use a 24-hour blood pressure monitor. This is where a cuff attached to a small computerised monitor is wrapped around your arm and you carry on with your normal business for 24 hours, after which the cuff is removed and the data is printed out on a computer. This monitor checks your blood pressure at 30-minute intervals over the entire 24-hour period. A detailed graph can then be printed out showing your overall average blood pressure as well as your average daytime and nighttime readings and what percentage of each are above normal.