High blood pressure (hypertension) is known as a silent disease, which means it generally doesn’t cause any symptoms until a cardiac event such as a heart attack or stroke occurs. Nine out of ten Canadians will experience high blood pressure at some point in their lives, but only 65% of them will be able to control their disease properly with treatment.
When they’re not experiencing any symptoms, it can be difficult for people with high blood pressure to understand or feel the benefits of their treatment. However, it is important to treat hypertension correctly as this has a direct effect on the risk of a cardiac event.
Blood pressure readings are an important indication of whether the treatment for hypertension is working, and can help determine whether your treatment needs to be adjusted.
Blood pressure levels tend to rise and fall during the day, and are influenced by a number of factors, including activity level, stress, the effect of medication, and even what you eat. It is important to have several readings in hand, in order to have a good overview of the situation.
To compile more readings without having to see a doctor or go to the drugstore, patients with hypertension are encouraged to take their blood pressure themselves at home (self-measurement). Blood pressure devices are inexpensive and easy to use. They also allow you to obtain readings that are not influenced by the doctor’s presence (white coat syndrome), as some people tend to exhibit higher blood pressure levels in a clinical setting than at home.
There are various BP monitor models on the market. The classic model, like the one doctors use, measures blood pressure using an upper arm inflatable cuff. Some devices measure blood pressure at the wrist or fingers, but these models are not recommended by organizations like Hypertension Canada or the Canadian Cardiovascular Society, as their results are less reliable than those provided by conventional models.
When choosing your device, ask your pharmacist for advice. He or she will help you select the monitor that best suits your needs, and make sure the cuff is the right size for your arm.
To take a reliable reading, it is important to follow a few rules when measuring your blood pressure:
It is recommended you take your blood pressure on seven consecutive days before doctor appointments and after any change in your treatment (for example, an increase in dosage or a new medication).
Measure your blood pressure twice in the morning and twice in the evening (wait two minutes between readings) before taking your hypertension medication.
The readings you obtain can either be saved in the device or recorded in a blood pressure log.
Your doctor will tell you what your blood pressure levels should be. These levels vary from one person to another, depending on age, other illnesses (notably diabetes), and overall health.
Even once your pressure is back to normal, you must never stop the treatment. It’s the treatment that helps maintain your blood pressure at the right level. If you stop the treatment, your blood pressure will rise, as will the risk of complications like heart attack or stroke.
In addition to helping you select the right blood pressure monitor for your needs, your pharmacist is also there to help you reach your treatment goals and provide advice if you encounter any difficulties along the way.
If your doctor has prescribed a medication for another health problem, or if you want to take an over-the-counter medication or natural health product, your pharmacist will ensure it is compatible with your hypertension medication.
If, after a change in your treatment, you find yourself in a situation where your medication needs to be renewed at different times during the month, your pharmacist can make the necessary adjustments to synchronize the dates and spare you multiple visits to the pharmacy.
Your pharmacist is there for you! Consult them if you have any questions.
The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.