treadmill theory of rapid blood pressure change

6 May

Taking some time today to focus on a visual aid (mental, or literal, if you like animated GIFs):


picture taking the treadmill, setting it at MAX speed (crank it up to 11)

in this analogy, max speed = high blood pressure

if you get on the treadmill at a low speed, then slowly dial it up, you’ll be tired eventually, but you’ll likely be able to adjust

now, imagine setting the treadmill at 11, then jumping on

the human body does not respond well to this sudden change.  this is when you can get hypertensive urgency/emergency, flash pulmonary edema, etc.   

you can rapidly lower this (e.g. nitroglycerin in flash pulm edema), since the rapid rise was the problem


similarly, its good to think about rapid blood pressure drops in compensated (e.g. chronic) hypertension

say you’re now running on the treadmill at a high speed for a long time (compensating well), then the belt suddenly stops.  your legs, still churning at a fast pace, will throw you into the control panel.  that’s probably going to hurt.  

you were used to the high speed (blood pressure), so the sudden drop-off while your legs are still churning results in badness (e.g. stroking out).

lowering the speed (pressure) slowly is best when you’re used to a high speed (pressure).  first do no harm.

Hope that helps.

once more, for the road.

References: picture 1, 2.


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