Some time ago my GP decided, with no apparent prompting, that my blood pressure was high, extremely high. This terrible, but symptomless, condition would apparently lead to explosions in the heart department and other such catastrophic breakdowns if left unattended. Now I have never been diagnosed with elevated blood pressure before and I don’t live a particularly unhealthy lifestyle so I must confess I found this sudden deterioration unusual but as an Engineer I identified a likely cause.
When my wrists were repaired a large amount of metal was added and this takes up space in my body, if the pump remains pumping the same volume at the same rate into a smaller space the pressure has to increase. As good as this logic is I don’t have an easy solution since the body is dead set on a specific volume of the red stuff, just letting some out isn’t an option well at least not a long-term one. Since the body was being all biological about matters I had no choice but to take the drugs prescribed by my GP and set about this with the enthusiasm of a sloth.
The first choice of prescription, I have since been told, was for the medical equivalent of a 1950s lump hammer. Whilst beta blockers do reduce your blood pressure they are an unwieldy tool akin to using an air wrench to undo an M3 nut and it was very quickly apparent that they were not for me. The weekend came around after a few days on these pills and I arose on the Saturday morning with little planned, after making a cup of tea at 7am I relaxed on the sofa and woke up again at 10! The problem with beta blockers is that they calm you down, I am already calm if you calm me down then it all ends rather horizontal and that is not a good plan.
Prescription 2 resolved the beta blocker issues and my blood pressure was quickly brought into line much to everybody’s delight. After a couple of months with the new super clever drug I noticed that I was suffering a lot of hair loss, it does seem to be my side effect of choice. A review of the literature confirmed that it is a reasonably common side effect and this was confirmed by user reports on the internet so off I headed to the GP. In my GPs defence he checked the side effects listed on the prescribing screen and did not find hair loss so sent me off to collect more of the same.
Collecting the second prescription I checked the paperwork and the side effect of hair loss had moved from “less common” to ” common” apparently its specific to generic variations and I was clearly heading downhill. My solution was an experiment, after all we all love an experiment don’t we? I would stop taking the drugs and monitor my blood pressure to be on the safe side. My hair loss reduced but in fairness I can’t be sure that is not simply a result of dwindling stock, what is interesting is my blood pressure which has steadily improved. I have gone from routinely hitting the 210+/100+ to, the much more socially acceptable values of 131/77 (3 week average) and 127/80 (last week average) quite an achievement for giving up medication surely? For reference the target is 120/80 and below.
So what is responsible for this miraculous recovery? Well firstly I have to make a confession, I have taken to measuring my blood pressure as soon as I wake up and I had a sneaky suspicion this was pushing the figures towards the low side. New research, by me, actually says that this is not true it is recommended to take it when fully relaxed and they caution that even walking between rooms can elevate the pressure. I have changed my diet over the last few weeks but that is only to reduce carbohydrate in keeping with my more sedentary lifestyle so that was more about preventing increases than causing decreases.
I think I have hit upon the answer and it could save the NHS millions. I have changed the cuff for my blood pressure monitor to one that fits. Unbeknown to me the ‘medium’ cuff that all of these machines come with has a strict size limit and it is not immediately obvious since the cuff will still fit oversized arms. Because the ‘large’ cuff increases in width as well I can be confident that everyone is using medium, which would make sense as I am not a large person.
I am writing this now because, having pondered for some time, I spoke to my mate the man mountain that is Rick and he confirmed my theory. In Rick’s case people had been using the standard 120/80 which is clearly incorrect for a man the size of a house, to get blood to circulate that machine you’re going to have to pump harder. But he was also advised by his GP that undersized cuffs cause elevated readings. I have tested this theory myself and when the smaller cuff recommends dialling 911 the larger one is most comfortable with its readings.
So the answer is simple, as indeed it always has been. If you don’t like the value change the way you are measuring it!
Disclaimer: The author is not medically trained and does not purport to offer medical advice. Even for those who have not met him in person following any ‘advice’ from this blog is, well frankly, pretty dumb.