5 reasons to manage your blood pressure
Nearly half of U.S. adults ages 20 years and up have high blood pressure, which is a leading risk factor for heart disease. High Blood Pressure, also known as hypertension, is known as the "silent killer" because most people who have it don’t have symptoms. Fortunately, high blood pressure is preventable and treatable.
Your first stop to finding out if you have high blood pressure is to schedule a check-up. “I recommend seeing your primary care doctor at least once a year for an annual checkup, including a blood pressure check,” says Ambi Zeller, Cardiology Nurse Practitioner at the Sentara RMH Heart Failure Clinic.
What is High Blood Pressure?
Your blood pressure normally rises and falls throughout the day. High blood pressure comes from an increase in the resistance of the arteries. Due to this resistance, your heart has to work harder to get blood to your extremities and vital organs. Over time, this can have detrimental effects on your body and health.
Blood pressure is measured using two numbers:
- The first number, called systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.
- The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats.
If the measurement reads 120 systolic and 80 diastolic, you would say, “120 over 80,” or write, “120/80 mmHg.” A normal blood pressure level is less than 120/80 mmHg.
The guidelines used to diagnose high blood pressure may differ from health care professional to health care professional. Generally, high blood pressure is diagnosed for patients if their blood pressure is consistently 130/80 mm Hg or higher.
Keep in Mind
It’s not just about the actual numbers; your doctor will also look at your family history, your lifestyle, your food choices, and any other risk factors or conditions you may have that also contribute to a risk for your health.
High Blood Pressure Puts You at Risk
Something as simple as blood pressure may seem like small potatoes. But let’s put blood pressure into perspective. There are many ways high blood pressure can impact your health and your quality of life.
When you have high blood pressure:
- You are three times more likely to die from heart disease.
- You are at a higher risk of having a stroke. High blood pressure is the most important risk factor for stroke, but it is also one of the most preventable risk factors when treated.
- You put your kidneys at risk. When a person’s blood pressure is high, it can stretch the fragile filtering system of the kidneys causing the kidneys to be less efficient in filtering your blood. Once this happens, it is known as chronic kidney disease.
- Your life expectancy may be shortened. Living with high blood pressure and the health complications associated with it may shorten life expectancy or drastically impact the quality of life.
- Your health won’t be the only thing impacted –medical costs for people with high blood pressure are up to $2,500 higher per year than costs for people without high blood pressure.
Steps to Reduce Your Risk:
- Know your numbers. The best way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked regularly – at least once a year. “Early diagnosis and management is key because elevated blood pressure can go undetected in the early stages,” says Zeller.
- Understand the symptoms and risks. Learn what factors could make you more likely to develop high blood pressure and put you at risk for serious medical problems. Talk to your doctor about risk factors.
- If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, this is your opportunity to change your health for the better. Take steps to reduce your risk and manage your blood pressure.
Zeller emphasizes diet and exercise as the first-line defense against high blood pressure. “For some people, elevated blood pressure can be improved without medications by following a heart-healthy diet like the D.A.S.H. diet or Mediterranean Diet and drinking plenty of water each day, PLUS regular daily movement such as walking for thirty minutes a day.”
Changes for Reducing Your Blood Pressure:
- Eat a well-balanced diet that's low in salt
- Limit alcohol
- Enjoy regular physical activity
- Manage stress
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Quit smoking
- Take your medications properly
- Work together with your health care professional
In addition to the steps above and others that your doctor may recommend, your doctor may also prescribe a medication called an antihypertensive to help lower your blood pressure. Whether you’re prescribed a medication or not, be sure to continue seeing your doctor.
Take the Next Step
To determine if you have high blood pressure or how to manage it, consult your primary care physician first. If necessary, your primary care physician will refer you to a cardiologist for additional care.
Schedule an appointment with a Sentara Medical Group physician.
Health Threats from High Blood Pressure
Blood pressure in adulthood and life expectancy with cardiovascular disease in men and women: life course analysis
Health and Economic Benefits of High Blood Pressure Interventions
Estimated Hypertension Prevalence, Treatment and Control Among US Adults
By: Amy Sandoval