Hypertension Diagnosis
Diagnosing High Blood Pressure In Women

Doctor Diagnosis

Checking for signs of high blood pressure

Hypertension Diagnosis

Contents

How Is High Blood Pressure Diagnosed?
How Is Blood Pressure Checked?
What Is White Coat Syndrome?
How Accurate Are Blood Pressure Units In Shopping Malls?
So I've Been Diagnosed, What Next?


Return To Main Guidelines

Hypertension Guide

How Is High Blood Pressure Diagnosed?

You can find out if you have high blood pressure (hypertension) by having blood pressure readings carried out regularly. Doctors will only diagnosis the condition after 2 or more readings, taken on different days, have been consistently high. If you have received one high reading and been told to come back in a few days for another check, there is no need to panic quite yet. There are lots of normal blood pressure variations - it is not uncommon for a healthy person to have high blood pressure (bp) on a single day and for it to return to normal the next. This doesn't mean you have hypertension. It is only if your bp remains consistently high will you be diagnosed with the condition. As the symptoms of hypertension are often silent (but deadly if unchecked), many people who receive a diagnosis are often taken by surprise because they feel perfectly healthy. For this reason it is recommended that all healthy adults over the age of 40 have their bp checked every 2 years.

How Is Blood Pressure Checked?

Blood pressure cuff and monitoring device
Sphygmomanometer instrument used for measuring blood pressure.

Getting your bp checked is fast, easy and painless. Most doctors still use a traditional instrument called the sphygmomanometer. This has a blood pressure cuff which is wrapped around your arm above the elbow. It is attached to a pressure gauge to measure the pressure of your blood as the cuff is squeezed tighter. The doctor will also use a stethoscope to listen to your blood flow. Once the test is over you will be given your reading as two numbers: systolic pressure over diastolic pressure. For example, the doctor might say your pressure is 120 over 180, which is written as 120/80. Systolic measures the pressure caused by the heart pumping and diastolic measures the heart at rest. While both numbers are important, the systolic pressure is particularly important to monitor as we age.

If you are about to go and have your bp checked:

1. Avoid drinking coffee or smoking 30 minutes for the checkup as both are stimulants which can artificially raise your levels.
2. Arrive a few minutes early, so that you can sit down in the waiting room and relax.
3. Wear short sleeves so your arm can easily be exposed.

What Is White Coat Syndrome?

Your doctor may tell you that you have white coat hypertension. This is high blood pressure caused by the anxiety of going to the doctor's (white coat) office for a checkup. The idea is that the stress and anxiety caused by the visit temporarily raises your bp (many people find the sterile exam room and smells of disinfectant distressing). By contrast, if you were to use a home blood pressure monitor in the comfort of your sitting room, your level might be quite normal because you are more relaxed. To avoid this scenario, arrive early before your appointment and try to relax for at least 5 minutes before seeing to your doctor.

How Accurate Are Blood Pressure Units In Shopping Malls?

While they are useful for self-monitoring between routine visits to your doctor, never rely on their results alone. The machines may not be serviced regularly and the results can be affected by wear and tear. If you use one of these units it should give you a printout at the end of the test, this is worth saving and showing to your doctor on your next visit.

So I've Been Diagnosed, What Next?

If you are diagnosed with hypertension your doctor will perform a full physical examination to determine the extent of damage to your heart and to check for possible underlying causes. She may:

1. Take a full medical history and ask if other family members have hypertension.
2. Check your risk factors for heart disease and for signs of kidney disease or hormone imbalances.
3. Perform various urine and blood tests to check for glucose levels (indicating prediabetes or diabetes), as well cholesterol levels, uric acid, calcium, creatinine and blood urea nitrogen (BUN). These tests will determine if your kidneys are working properly or if there is an underlying cause for your high bp.
4. If she suspects the heart has been affected, she may order an electrocardiogram (image) to evaluate your heart's rhythm. It is not uncommon for a clinician to un-earth a previously unknown heart attack (silent heart attacks) during an ECG.
5. You may also undergo an echocardiogram (image), a sort of ultrasound of the heart muscle. Both ECG's and ECHO's are painless.
6. Less commonly, a few people may need more invasive heart disease testing to check their blood flow, these include an MRI scan, nuclear heart scan or coronary angiography.
7. If you are pregnant, see our section on hypertension during pregnancy.

It is worth understanding the causes of high blood pressure if you have recently been diagnosed as many of the causes are lifestyle related. This is good news because it means there is much you can do to treat, even control the condition yourself without resorting to the need to take blood pressure drugs. Next, see treatment for high blood pressure.

Related Questions
Why do I feel faint? Have you had fainting spells?
What is blood pressure? Easy definition.

  Related Articles on Diagnosing Hypertension

For more related issues, see the following:

Hypertension Prevention - Exercise, diet and weight loss advice.
Birth Control Pill And High Blood Pressure - Read about the risk factors and dangers.

Return To Homepage: Womens Health Advice


WOMENS HEALTH ADVICE: ABOUT HYPERTENSION
Sources
Please Note: Information provided on this site is no substitute for professional medical help. See Disclaimer.
Copyright. All rights reserved.