Facts About High Blood Pressure and Hypertension

As many as 50 million Americans either have high blood pressure or are taking medication to control their blood pressure. High blood pressure that remains elevated over time, also called �hypertension,� is a problem that, if not controlled, can be a serious health risk. Hypertension is often associated with cardiovascular disease, which is the number one cause of death for men and women in the United States.

Factors such as genetics, race, age, stress, obesity and lifestyle choices are all contributing factors that can contribute to higher blood pressure levels.

What is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure relates to two forces. The first force is the heart as it pushes through the circulatory system and into the arteries. The next force is the arteries as they fight the flow of the blood. A person�s blood pressure is represented by two numbers, for example, 120 over 60. The higher number (systolic) indicates the pressure of the beating heart. The lower number (diastolic) points to the pressure when the heart rests between beats.

Normal blood pressure for adults should be less than 140/90. A systolic blood pressure of 130-139 or a diastolic pressure of 85-89 needs to be monitored. Also, a blood pressure of 140/90 or greater is high and should be monitored by your physician.

Dangers of High Blood Pressure / Hypertension

One of the greatest dangers of high blood pressure is that it can be a silent killer, going undetected in many who have it. Untreated high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, kidney and congestive heart failure.

How Often Should I Have My Blood Pressure Checked?

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that adults have their blood pressure checked by a doctor or qualified professional at least once every two years. High blood pressure can also occur in children and could actually be a symptom of a more serious ailment, such as kidney or heart disease. The AHA recommends that all children have yearly blood pressure checks.

Symptoms of High Blood Pressure / Hypertension

Detecting high blood pressure is difficult because it can build over years with no visible symptoms. Unfortunately, only when it becomes truly problematic do indicators arise. Symptoms can include nosebleeds, irregular heartbeats, dizziness and headaches. However, many times no visible symptoms are present.

Steps You Can Take to Help Control Your Blood Pressure

The good news is that you can take some positive steps to control your blood pressure, such as:

  • Know your blood pressure and have it checked on a yearly basis by a physician. High blood pressure is treatable so don�t be afraid to set an appointment with your doctor to have it checked.
  • Limit you sodium intake to no more than 2400 milligrams (about 1.25 teaspoons of salt) per day.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Eat more fresh vegetables, fruits and foods high in fiber and low in fat.
  • Minimize your alcohol intake.
  • Reduce your stress levels, as it can increase your risk of high blood pressure.
  • Exercise regularly, keeping your weight within normal limits.
  • Not everyone is able to monitor their blood pressure with the above methods. When this occurs, a doctor will typically prescribe medication to reduce blood pressure levels. Be sure to follow your doctor�s suggestions in taking medications.

It is important to remember that because high blood pressure is a silent disease, it is crucial to have it checked regularly.

If you want to work toward a healthier lifestyle, you don’t have to do it alone. Simi Valley Hospital can help. Please call our us at (805) 955-6890 to find out about our free and low-cost health classes. We can also help you find a physician; just call Referral Services at (805) 955-6900.

Note: This is for information purposes only and not intended for use in place of the advice of a physician.

Reference: The American Heart Association