Our Blog

- Laura Fitzsimmons, Pharmacist Manager, Collector's Hill Apothecary


Q:  What is blood pressure and why is high blood pressure considered dangerous?


A:  Blood pressure is defined as the force of blood pushing against the blood vessels.  High blood pressure (hypertension) occurs when the force rises and consistently remains above normal levels.  If not controlled, high blood pressure can cause:


  • -Stroke
  • -Heart Attack
  • -Kidney Disease/Failure
  • -Heart Failure
  • -Vision Loss
  • -Sexual Dysfunction


Often dubbed a ‘silent killer’, many people with high blood pressure feel healthy and do not experience symptoms while hypertension is quietly damaging their health.  The best prevention from hypertension is to regularly monitor your blood pressure and know your numbers.


Q:  How do I get checked for high blood pressure?


A:  Having your blood pressure checked is easy.  You can choose to visit your doctor or a pharmacist at The Phoenix Stores.  There are self-service blood pressure monitors located at The Phoenix Centre, Clarendon Pharmacy and Warwick Pharmacy for your convenience. 


During a blood pressure test, a fabric pressure cuff (sphygmomanometer) is placed around the upper arm and manually or electronically inflated.  Once inflated, the cuff momentarily prevents blood flow and while air in the cuff is slowly released one is able to measure the heartrate via a stethoscope or from an electronic readout. 


Q:  Do I have to do anything to ensure that I get an accurate blood pressure reading?


A:  Yes, you can follow these steps to ensure you measure your blood pressure correctly:

  • -        Wait at least 30 minutes after smoking, drinking caffeine or performing vigorous activity.
  • -        Empty your bladder.
  • -        Wear a short sleeved shirt or blouse.
  • -        Sit with your back supported and your feet relaxed on the floor at least 5 minutes before checking your pressure.
  • -        Remain still and do not talk while your blood pressure is being measured.


Q:  I understand 120/80 is a normal, but what do blood pressure numbers mean?


A:  Blood pressure is measured by two numbers:

  • -        Systolic blood pressure (the top number) indicates the amount of pressure your blood exerts during heartbeats.
  • -        Diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) indicates the amount of pressure your blood exerts while the heart is resting between beats.



Q:  How can I tell if my numbers are high?


A:  There are five blood pressure categories:



Systolic Pressure (the top number)

mm HG


Diastolic (the bottom number)

mm HG

Normal Blood Pressure

120 or lower


80 or lower





Hypertension Stage One




Hypertension Stage Two

160 or higher


100 or higher

Hypertensive Crisis

180 or higher


110 or higher


If your blood pressure is normal, keep up the good work and maintain healthy heart habits such as a eating a balanced diet and doing regular exercise. You can also ensure you check your blood pressure at least once a year to ensure it stays within the normal range.


If your blood pressure is not normal, wait five minutes and check it again to help determine if you need further assistance.  Should a second test result in a similar reading, visit your doctor who will run additional tests.


Should your numbers read higher than 180/110 and you are not experiencing symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness, weakness, a change in vision or difficulty speaking, wait five minutes and check your pressure again. If your pressure remains high visit your physician immediately.


 If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed and the reading is above the hypertensive crisis level, dial 911 and seek immediate medical attention.


Q:  What can I do to prevent or control high blood pressure?


A:  In many cases, a few lifestyle changes is all that’s required to keep your blood pressure under control. Lifestyle changes include:

  • -        Quite smoking and/or chewing tobacco -Ask your doctor/pharmacist for help with quitting.
  • -        Maintain a healthy weight -Aim for a body mass index between 18.5 and 24.9.  If you are overweight, ask your doctor/pharmacist for help with a weight loss plan.
  • -        Be physically active- Aim for 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity 3-4 times per week.  Physical activity includes any movement that increases your heart rate such as a brisk walk, house and yard work or playing sports. 
  • -        Reduce sodium (salt) intake- A level of under 1500 mg per day is recommended.  Read food labels to choose and prepare foods that are low in sodium or sodium-free.  Ask your doctor/pharmacist about a registered dietician if you need help with a nutrition plan.
  • -        Limit alcohol- Drink no more than 1-2 alcoholic beverages per day.


Q:  What else can I do to take control of my blood pressure?


A:  A few factors to consider when taking an active role in maintaining your blood pressure are:


  • -        When you have your blood pressure checked, be sure to record the results and discuss them with your doctor/pharmacist for clarity and advice if necessary.
  • -        Should your doctor prescribe drugs to help lower your blood pressure, ensure it is taken as directed.  Do not discontinue use or take a higher or lower dose unless instructed to do so by your doctor.
  • -        Monitor your blood pressure yourself regularly at home. Explore the wide range of blood pressure monitors available at The Phoenix Stores and look at the new iHealth range at Clarendon Pharmacy that allows you to record and track results via any mobile device.

At The Phoenix Stores, we are always ready to answer any questions or concerns regarding your health and wellness so feel free to call in and speak to any of our pharmacists.