If there is such a thing as the “most heard gripe” Palm Beach cardiologists hear from patients, it’s when during one of their visits we record a higher-than-usual blood pressure reading for them, and we ask them to come back for additional measurements. After hearing “What’s the matter…why should I have to come back? Didn’t you do it right the first time?” dozens of times, and having to explain each time, we thought this would be a good topic for an article.
The thing is, your blood pressure changes, and more often than you think
When we measure your blood pressure, the result is a “snapshot” of what the internal pressure of your blood vessels is at the moment in which we take the reading. For example, if your blood pressure is 120/80 (a “normal” blood pressure reading), the top (systolic) number indicates the amount of pressure when your heart contracts, and the lower (diastolic) number indicates the amount of pressure when your heart muscle relaxes between beats.
But this number can change from hour to hour, and even from minute to minute. If you rode your bicycle or jogged to our offices, for example, your blood pressure would probably be higher than if you had driven your car. Similarly, your blood pressure might be temporarily higher if you had a cup of coffee with breakfast, or even if you had an argument with your spouse at the table. Strangely enough, another thing that can produce a higher-than-normal blood pressure reading is what we call “white lab coat phenomenon.” People who don’t go to see their doctors often sometimes get nervous when they do see them, and that raises their blood pressure.
So a single blood pressure reading is not enough to diagnose hypertension
For many of the reasons listed above, you might have a “high” blood pressure reading on Monday morning, but a normal one on Wednesday. That is why we sometimes ask you to return for multiple readings. Sometimes we actually have to test your blood pressure at different times of the day and in different conditions (eating vs. not eating beforehand, or exercising vs. not exercising beforehand) to determine whether your blood pressure is continually high.
If, after multiple tests, it appears that your blood pressure remains consistently high (140/90 or higher), your Delray Beach cardiologist might recommend treatment to try to lower it. Initial treatments are usually conservative – recommending that you get more exercise, stop smoking, and reduce stress in your life. If your blood pressure is consistently high enough to qualify for stage 2 hypertension (160/100 or higher), your Palm Beach heart doctor may recommend that you start taking antihypertensive drugs to reduce your heart risk. If you ever record a blood pressure of 180/110 or higher, chances are we’ll recommend that you check into a hospital immediately, because that is dangerously high, and you are at grave risk.
The bottom line is that the higher your blood pressure is, the more often you should have it checked
You can have your blood pressure checked by your cardiologist or your family doctor, or even learn to check your own blood pressure and do it at home. Home monitoring can be especially useful if you are undergoing treatment for hypertension, because daily or even more frequent readings can give you a clear picture of your progress as you become healthier.
But of course if you do have even slightly high blood pressure, your first step in getting it under control and keeping it at a safe level should be to visit a top cardiologist in Palm Beach. You can do that by simply picking up your phone and calling 561-515-0080 to set up an appointment.