We all know high blood pressure is problematic but unfortunately, few realize just how dangerous those silently climbing numbers can be. A startling 80 million
Americans have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Blood Pressure (BP) is calculated by measuring the force of blood through your arteries as your heart is pumping, called systolic
pressure, over your diastolic
pressure, the force of flow through the arteries while your heart is refilling. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, consists of a chronic BP reading of 140/90
A Tip-Toeing Intruder
Hypertension has been coined ‘the silent killer’ for a reason. Most people have no symptoms at all as their pressure gradually rises to unhealthy heights putting the body in danger. According to Kathy Berra, clinical director of the Stanford Heart Network
at the Stanford University School of Medicine, “Many people assume you will get a headache or some other kind of signal when blood pressure is high, unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Often, the first sign of unknown or untreated high blood pressure is a stroke, a heart attack, or kidney disease.”
Aside from the disease in itself, unchecked chronically elevated BP levels can also cause other conditions such as kidney failure, diabetes, stroke, or transient ischemic attacks (mini stokes). Hypertension can also lead to life-threatening cardiovascular conditions including cardiac arrest, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries due to fatty buildup), and congestive heart failure
. These are just a few of the many comorbid conditions that go hand in hand with high blood pressure.
Keep Your Eyes Open
Even though hypertension is sly, there are some risk factors associated with hypertension that could let you know if you are in danger of developing the condition. The World Heart Federation (WHF
) attests that lifestyle and genealogy are the key contributors to high blood pressure. Other risk factors include: being overweight or not physically active, being a smoker or heavy drinker, not getting enough potassium or vitamin D, and certain medications (such as long term use of NSAIDS). So while you may inherit a predisposition for hypertension from your parents and grandparents, what you do about it is just as important.
Prevent Your BP Values From Climbing
Luckily blood pressure is largely reversible or controlled through lifestyle changes and medications. Some ways you can control or prevent hypertension include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight – carrying excess weight can contribute to high blood pressure so work toward a healthy weight goal.
- Quitting smoking – smoking has been directly linked to many chronic health conditions, high blood pressure being one.
- Limiting alcohol – moderate to heavy drinking can cause an increase in blood pressure over time.
- Taking necessary medications - if your doctor has prescribed blood pressure medications, you should be sure to take them regularly to prevent your blood pressure from rising dangerously.
- Exercising regularly – exercise is so good for the heart! Give the heart what it wants and work out that bod to prevent your numbers from rising.
- Controlling stress – excess cortisol that is released when you are experiencing stress has proven to exacerbate many life threatening conditions such as hypertension.
- Eating nutritionally – eating a balanced, healthy diet is an integral part of maintaining good health and keeping high BP away. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) suggest A.S.H. diet which centers around limiting red meat and sodium, and focusing on vegetables, fruit, certain dairy products, whole grains, fish, poultry, seeds or nuts.
Do Your Numbers Add up?
Everyone should have their blood pressure checked during doctor visits to ensure there are no red flags. By checking your BP every now and then, you may catch a problem early and avoid years of silent damage. You can check your blood pressure for free at the doctor’s office and most local pharmacies, or if in doubt about your BP, you can buy a home blood pressure monitor to keep closer tabs on it. Start making the necessary modifications your life today to prevent the stealthiest thief from robbing you of your invaluable health!
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