Understanding Blood Pressure: Asking the Right Questions

High blood pressure is a major cause of anxiety for many patients. A routine doctor’s visit resulting in a high blood pressure reading can leave patients feeling worried about their health and the prospect of lifelong medication. However, blood pressure is complex, and there are important questions patients should ask their doctor before assuming the worst.

Why Blood Pressure Numbers Cause Anxiety

  • High blood pressure is commonly detected during routine doctor’s visits, causing anxiety in patients.
  • Patients consult Dr. Google and find scary information about strokes, heart attacks, and kidney failure linked to high blood pressure.
  • Patients then become anxious about taking medications lifelong.
  • When anxious patients return for follow-up, blood pressure is elevated again, triggering more anxiety.

So, how this common scenario causes undue stress for many patients around a high blood pressure reading. The anxiety stems from a lack of understanding of what the numbers really mean.

Key Things to Know About Blood Pressure Readings

There are two main reasons blood pressure numbers are important:

1. It Can Indicate an Underlying Issue

  • High blood pressure can be a symptom of an underlying problem requiring treatment.
  • The goal should be identifying and treating the cause, not just lowering the number.

2. Very High Numbers Themselves Can Cause Harm

  • Extremely high blood pressure can directly damage tiny blood vessels and organs.
  • In this case, lowering the numbers reduces harm.

Why Single Readings Can Be Misleading

  • Blood pressure fluctuates widely throughout the day based on many factors.
  • Readings in the doctor’s office may be inaccurate due to stress.
  • A single high reading does not necessarily indicate an overall problem.

Getting an Accurate Overall Picture

  • Multiple home readings or a 24-hour blood pressure monitor provide a better average.
  • The average reading over an extended period gives a more accurate picture.
  • Isolated high clinic readings are often lower when properly monitored at home.

Three Key Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Before assuming your blood pressure is dangerously high, make sure you get answers to these questions:

1. What Is My True Blood Pressure?

  • Insist on proper monitoring over time, not just isolated clinic readings.
  • A 24-hour blood pressure monitor worn at home can provide an accurate average.
  • This gives a true picture of your overall blood pressure.

2. Is My Blood Pressure a Symptom of Something Else?

  • Look at lifestyle factors like obesity, lack of exercise, smoking, alcohol use, stress, and sleep apnea.
  • Try to identify and address causes rather than just treat the number.

3. Is My Current Blood Pressure Doing Me Harm?

  • Damage and risks accumulate over years of sustained high blood pressure.
  • Look for indicators of early organ damage like:
    • Retina hemorrhages
    • Protein in urine
    • Enlarged heart muscle
  • If no indicators of damage are present, lifestyle changes should be the priority rather than medications.

When Medications Are Appropriate

  • If damage is occurring, lowering blood pressure should be more aggressive.
  • This is true even if numbers are only mildly elevated.
  • Without damage, medications may not be needed urgently even with higher numbers.
  • The key is whether blood pressure is high enough to cause harm for that individual.

The Bottom Line: high blood pressure is common

While anxiety about high blood pressure is common, patients need more information before worrying excessively. Blood pressure is complex, but asking the right questions provides clarity. Monitoring blood pressure properly over time, identifying contributing lifestyle issues, and looking for early organ damage help determine if and when medications are appropriate. Addressing those underlying issues is key rather than focusing just on the numbers.

Workout and Fitness News

Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.