Staying informed is key
Understanding your blood pressure
Blood pressure is a measure of the force that your heart uses to pump blood around your body. Keeping a normal level of blood pressure is important to keep your heart and body healthy. If your blood pressure is too high (hypertension), it can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease by putting too much of a strain on your heart and arteries, and the organs they nourish. Your doctor has probably prescribed multiple blood pressure lowering medications in order to significantly reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke or kidney failure.
Hypertension is a problem that affects 1 in 3 adults and is the cause of 1 in every 8 deaths worldwide.1,2
Understanding your blood pressure measurement
When your blood pressure is taken, two measurements are recorded during a single heartbeat:
- Systolic: the level of pressure when your heart pumps blood through your arteries and around your body
- Diastolic: the level of pressure when your heart is resting before it pumps again
- Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and is given as two levels. The systolic reading is the first or top number, followed by the diastolic reading, the second or bottom number.
Why is controlling your blood pressure important?
The risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack, stroke and heart failure goes up as blood pressure goes up. So, you should always maintain your systolic blood pressure below 140 mmHg (or 130 mmHg if you suffer from diabetes). For example, if your systolic blood pressure number is 160 mmHg, then compared with people at 120 mmHg you are at:
- 4 times higher risk of heart attack3
- 4 times higher risk of stroke4
- 4 times higher risk of end-stage renal disease5
- 2 times higher risk of heart failure6
Hypertension VS resistant hypertension. What's the difference?
Hypertension can usually be treated with medications. Unfortunately, up to 97% of patients who take antihypertensive medications experience drug side effects, and for some people, medications are not enough. Some people take 3 or more medications, including a diuretic, but still struggle to bring their blood pressure closer to a healthy level. Unfortunately, studies show that the addition of a fourth or a fifth medication seldom provides any meaningful additional benefit. 7,9
If you consistently have a reading of 140/90 mmHg or higher, despite being treated with at least 3 medications, you might suffer from resistant hypertension.
1. The World Health Report 2002. World Health Organization; 2002:58. 2. Wolf-Maier K. JAMA 2003;289:2363-2369. 3. Lewington Sl. Lancet. 2002;360:1903-1913. 4. American Heart Association. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics - 2007 Update. Page e112. 5. American Heart Association. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics - 2007 Update. Page e150. 6. American Heart Association. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics - 2008 Update. Page 21. 7. Tedla YG and Bautista LE. Drug Side Effect Symptoms and Adherence to Antihypertensive Medication, Am J Hypertens. 2015 Dec 7. pii: hpv185. [Epub ahead of print]. 8. Yaxley JP and Thambar SV. Resistant hypertension: an approach to management in primary care. J Family Med Prim Care. 2015 Apr-Jun; 4(2): 193–199. 9. Timbie JW et al. Diminishing Efficacy of Combination Therapy, Response-Heterogeneity, and Treatment Intolerance Limit the Attainability of Tight Risk Factor Control in Patients with Diabetes. Health Serv Res. 2010 Apr; 45(2): 437-456.