Blood Pressure Readings and Survival

November 12, 2012

Blood Pressure Readings and Survival

The blood flowing in your arteries exerts a force on the walls of the blood vessels. This force is known as blood pressure. Elevated, or lower than normal blood pressure readings may lead to serious complications.


Blood Pressure Readings

Blood pressure readings are expressed as systolic and diastolic pressures. Systolic pressure is the force exerted by blood during the contraction of the heart muscles. This value is generally around 120 mm Hg. The diastolic pressure occurs when the heart muscles relax. Its average value is 80 mm Hg. The normal blood pressure is, therefore, expressed as 120/80 mm Hg. Prehypertension is defined as a systolic pressure of 120 to 139 and diastolic pressure of 80 to 89. Individuals with systolic pressure of 140 to 159 and diastolic pressure of 90 to 99 are considered to be stage I hypertension. If your blood pressure is greater than 159/99 mm Hg, you will be categorized as stage II hypertension. This condition can be life threatening and requires immediate medical attention.

Causes and Symptoms

A variety of factors may contribute to abnormally high blood pressure readings. These include:

  • Obesity
  • Lack of Exercise
  • Excessive Salt Intake
  • Stress
  • Family History
  • Old Age
  • Chronic kidney or thyroid diseases
  • Alcohol abuse and smoking

Hypertension can lead to a wide range of symptoms in your body including vision problems, chest pain, fatigue, headache, shortness of breath and irregular heartbeat. The condition may increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and eye problems.


Survival Rates

Most national and medical guidelines recommend measuring blood pressure in both arms for best results. Many doctors and medical assistants ignore this guideline due to lack of sufficient evidence. However, a recent study published on the British Medical Journal website has revealed that hypertension patients with different blood pressure readings in each arm have lower survival rates. The lifespan of these patients may be shorter by almost 10 years. The researchers of the study, therefore, recommend taking blood pressure readings from both arms before starting the treatment.

During the study, the researchers at Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry monitored the blood pressure of 230 hypertension patients over a span of three years, and followed their survival rates after 10 years before making the final recommendation. The researchers of the study also suggest that different blood pressures in each arm can lead to delayed diagnosis and improper management of the condition. In fact, for every 1 mm Hg difference in the blood pressure between the arms, the risk of death increases by 9 percent.

The difference in blood pressure readings may be as important as the abnormal reading itself, and should be a core component of every high blood pressure treatment and management strategy.

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