Blood pressure monitoring : Why you should not just go to the pharmacy?

Hypertension is a very common diagnosis and results in life long blood pressure lowering medications and follow up. Often times, patients feel relatively well despite a higher than normal blood pressure. This gives patients a false sense of calmness and feeds their reluctance to maintain their anti hypertensive medications.

Why do doctors treat hypertension then?

We know that an elevated blood pressure puts one at risk for stroke, heart attacks and kidney failures. These complications are serious and can leave a patient debilitated for the rest of his/her life. It can potentially be fatal as well. It can hit you without warning and leave you permanently disabled. Lowering your blood pressure reduces this risks significantly.

Therefore monitoring and treating blood pressure is not merely about reading the systolic and diastolic pressures. It is about routinely checking the heart and kidneys. It is about proper counselling to ensure compliance and understanding of hypertension. It is about changing or escalating the medications when needed.

Doctors are trained in counselling and talking to patients. They are trained in monitoring for potential complications of hypertension as well as recognising potential underlying causes of hypertension eg hyperthyroidism or Cushing’s syndrome. They are trained to examine the patients to look for causes that are treatable which can lead to hypertension. They are adequately trained in pharmacology to understand the effects of the drugs prescribed and its common side effects.

Pharmacists have no training in evaluating patients. They are not trained to recognise or diagnose medical conditions. They in fact have no training in taking blood pressure readings using a mercury sphynomanometer, hence most use digital ones. Most importantly, they are not allowed to dispense anti-hypertensives without a valid prescription.

So to the general public, please do not visit a pharmacist to monitor your hypertension, just for the sake of convenience. This can be detrimental to your health. To pharmacists, please consider the well being of the patients that do seek your help and advise them appropriately to follow up with their doctors. To doctors, please examine your patients and counsel them appropriately and not disregard their concerns or relegate hypertension to just BP readings and drug prescriptions.

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