Possibly the most misunderstood thing about blood pressure is the readings. It’s not always clear what the readings mean. And you can even get false blood pressure readings in certain situations – or rather, readings which don’t give the true picture of your usual blood pressure.
There’s a lot of mixed up information out there.
And the official medical establishment policy regarding hypertension isn’t helping.
What’s considered ‘high’ blood pressure?
Standard approach to diagnosing high blood pressure
Some years back the rule of thumb regarding blood pressure was ‘100 plus your age’ for an acceptable systolic (higher number) reading. Now the standard approach is 120/80 for everyone whether they are 9 or 99.
Indeed, both methods are flawed.
The traditional ‘100 plus your age’ failed to take in account that a good lifestyle can keep away the effects of aging and help us live longer and healthier lives.
The newly established technique of 120 over 80 for all falls short in the other way. Using an identical blood pressure ruler to measure a 20 year old and a 75 year old is absurd.
Sure we can remain healthier and live longer through conscious choices – but that’s not the same as believing we can maintain the peak of a 20 year old’s strength, fitness, and blood pressure for keeps.
Both methods fail to strike a balance, yet good health is all about maintaining a balance.
But blood pressure is dynamic!
Another downside with the 120 systolic / 80 diastolic approach is that it fails to take into account the dynamic nature of blood pressure. Your blood pressure is constantly changing.
It’s not a specific number we should worry over but the ranges that our blood pressure moves in.
Your blood pressure will naturally go up when you exert yourself, and so on. Blood pressure is usually the lowest at the end of a relaxed evening. And this is the best time to take your blood pressure – at home, relaxed. Not at the doctor’s office or after half a dozen cups of coffee.
If your blood pressure comes down to acceptable range (say under 135/ 90) then there’s no need to run to the local GP’s seeking high blood pressure medications. It’s when your blood pressure refuses to ever come below, say, 155 over 90, that you should contemplate blood pressure-reducing solutions.
Why 135/90? That’s my acceptable range. You see I have a genetic inclination for high blood pressure. Both my parents suffered from high blood pressure. So if I can keep my blood pressure under 135 over 90 I’m pleased.
False blood pressure readings? Make your own judgement
You’ll have to decide for yourself what’s acceptable for your own situation.
In case you’re interested, my actual blood pressure readings sometimes go below the 120/80 standard. That’s a result of lifestyle changes I’ve taken on. But I’m not going to ‘freak out’ if I get a reading of, say 133 over 89 or thereabouts.
When dealing with personal health issues, establishing your own goals runs against the grain for for many people. It’s easier to just listen to ‘the establishment’ and do what they say.
The standard approach for reading high blood pressure (on a visit to your GP) could result in false blood pressure readings. By this, I mean readings that show your blood pressure to be much higher than it is usually. (You can read more here on the ins and outs of blood pressure readings.) This can result in a false diagnosis of high blood pressure. As a consequence you could then be put on medications, when in fact your blood pressure in a more relaxed situation is OK.
If you contemplate all the bad side effects linked with hypertension medications, bringing down your blood pressure via healthy lifestyle changes may not seem that crazy after all.
Above all, don’t forget that blood pressure changes. Approach blood pressure readings in terms of ranges, not fixed numbers.
Take back control: get your own blood pressure monitor
If you take readings regularly, you can get a real sense of what the range of your blood pressure is. You can also start to find out what specific things raise your blood pressure unduly. Understanding your blood pressure is the first step to sorting it out, in my opinion.
For more information on this (and for links to buy blood pressure monitors), have a look at this post: Why do I need a blood pressure monitor
What if I do have genuinely high blood pressure? How do I get it down?
If you discover that you definitely do have high blood pressure, first thing – don’t panic. Having high blood pressure is not a death sentence. Nor does it mean a lifetime of blood pressure-lowering medications.
When I discovered I had high blood pressure, I initially took medication (and ACE inhibitor) but was put off by the nasty persistent cough it gave me. I then read up about more natural methods of lowering blood pressure. And I then implemented some of them. For me this consisted of making some changes in my eating habits and doing regular slow breathing exercises. (Slow breathing is actually the quickest way to reduce high blood pressure without medications.)
How to lower your blood pressure naturally: a practical guide
UPDATE 2017: The programs I used to help me with this are no longer available, so I created my own guide to lowering blood pressure naturally, and also my own slow breathing program.
Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally – The Complete 9 Step Guide is as it says: a step-by-step guide to lowering your blood pressure without having to resort to medications.
The main lifestyle causes of high blood pressure (as opposed to age and genetics, which you can’t do much about) are unhealthy diet, not enough exercise, and too much stress.
As such, the guide covers everything you need to know about how to deal with these. It covers what you can eat and drink to bring down your blood pressure. It looks at how to be more active in your everyday life. And it also outlines techniques to help you relax more and start to de-stress.
Everything in the book is tried-and-tested and based on scientific research. But don’t worry – lowering your blood pressure naturally isn’t a life of denial. You can still eat butter, steak and chocolate, for example, and have a few drinks. And there are even blood pressure-lowering exercises which don’t even require getting up from the sofa.
Lowering your blood pressure naturally is a choice. But once you make that choice, and start implementing it, you’ll find it’s a choice that leads to greater health, energy and well-being. What’s good for your blood pressure is good for you in many other ways. Convenient! 😉
By the way, I mentioned slow breathing exercises above too. Well, the guide currently includes a full set of audio tracks for guided slow breathing. (Listen to samples here: guided slow breathing audio samples). So you can get started on that right away too. Hope that helps!