For those that don't know, the very upper-end of normal blood pressure is 140/90. So 155/98 classifies as (mild) hypertension, and prolonged hypertension carries significantly increased risks for heart disease, strokes, and a wide range of other unpleasant and life-shortening things https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypertension.
I booked myself in to see a GP a couple of weeks ago for no reason aside from wanting to get myself a health check-up and get a battery of blood tests to check the levels of various key components in my blood - more out of interest and curiosity sake and forcing myself to be ever-more-proactive about my health. The GP took my blood pressure while I was in there and asked me if I was aware of any reasons for why it would be high? We were both surprised by the 155/98 reading.
I eat better and healthier than anyone else I know, do intense 40 minute interval training sessions 5 nights a week, have a resting heart rate of 50 bpm, weigh 74kg at 5'11", get plenty of sleep, and am generally the fittest, strongest, and healthiest I've been in my life. And there is no family history of heart disease or high blood pressure. This high blood pressure reading was a shock.
I wondered if it was stress-related, admitting that the last couple of months have been very busy at work and home, even though I didn't feel overly stressed. The GP said he'd retake my blood pressure when I went back to collect my blood results. I also wondered if overtraining might be the cause, due too the regular intense interval training for prolonged periods, but case studies suggested I wasn't exercising anywhere near the extreme levels that induce overtraining. Of the 45 different parameters - elements, enzymes, vitamins, cell counts, etc - measured in my blood all were within normal healthy ranges.
But in the interim I decided to take matters into my own hands, which should come as no surprise to anyone reading this. I read up on hypertension (obviously), purchased a blood pressure monitor (in the image below) from a local store, and started collecting regular blood pressure data over the course of the following week or so. I took readings at the same time every morning, the same time (roughly) every afternoon, and the same time every night and begun to fill out a spreadsheet to help analyse the data.
Questions to ask were: how much difference did time of day make? How consistent were the readings? Was work really making me stressed?
You can check out the spreadsheet I made here:
Raw data collected at different times and days for SYStolic and DIAstolic readings is on the first tab. The other tabs have morning, afternoon, and evening trends, as well as SYS and DIA comparisons and finally a combined trend of all readings over the 9 days I collected data for.
In summary: the data show that it was all a false alarm. My blood pressure is absolutely fine and spends most of the time in an optimal range. There was just one afternoon where it popped over the top of the normal range to 145/93 but everything else was at normal or optimal levels. I exercised and ate as normal throughout the week. The follow-up reading by the GP showed a normal afternoon value and he looked at my data and agreed that everything was fine.
A few concerns:
- Accuracy of the device. After the first couple of days I took 3 consecutive measurements and averaged them. This means the data for the first couple of days isn't strictly comparable to the rest.
- Method compliance. I sometimes didn't rest for the complete 5 minute recommended period before taking a reading because time, especially in the afternoon was often a factor.
I'm glad it was a false alarm but if you haven't had a proper health check-up in a while to get some data on your blood composition and pressure then you might want to consider arranging a time with your GP. Peace of mind is worth a lot. And being proactive about one's health and always mindful of preventing health complications before they occur is always a superior strategy. I only hope that sooner, rather than later, we have the tools and technology available that allow us to cheaply and easily collect this data at home as often as we like; waiting a week or more for health data is archaic.
It is likely that one of the generations now alive will be the last mortal generation. Live long enough to live indefinitely.