May is National Blood Pressure Education Month
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is THE silent killer. You may have mild symptoms, perhaps a headache that you attribute to something else. Or you might not feel feel anything at all. But don't let that fool you. High blood pressure can cause serious damage to your body and brain. It increases your risk of stroke, heart attack, kidney failure. It can kill you. The more you know about hypertension -- what it is, what it can do to you, how to recognize it or get diagnosed, how to treat it and possibly reverse it -- the healthier you'll be.
What Is High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure is also called hypertension. Over time elevated blood pressure causes more wear and tear on your heart and arteries. The result is damaged or blocked arteries which reduces how efficiently blood is able to circulate through your body.
High blood pressure can be dangerous because it restricts blood and oxygen supply to different parts of your body. This taxes your body and may lead to organ failure if it isn't appropriately managed. Fortunately most cases of hypertension don't progress this far.
Understanding Blood Pressure
Your blood pressure is a measure of the force with which your blood cells press against the walls of your arteries and veins. It's measured as one number over another. You've probably heard your doctor report your blood pressure this way, but you might not have known exactly what the numbers meant.
The first number represents your systolic blood pressure, which is the pressure on your artery walls at the time the heart is contracting and squeezing blood out through the arteries. The second is your diastolic blood pressure, which measures the pressure when the heart relaxes between beats.
Either number being too high can indicate a problem although one high reading does not necessarily mean that you require medication Your doctor will first want to know your average blood pressure over a period of time before considering further treatment.
Healthy Blood Pressure Measurements
If your blood pressure doesn't fall into the healthy range, it needs to be investigated further. A normal systolic blood pressure reading is up to 120 mm Hg, while diastolic blood pressure is normally about 80 mm Hg.
Blood pressure is generally considered elevated if it's above 140 systolic or 90 diastolic. If your blood pressure reading spikes up to levels of 180 systolic or 120 diastolic, you should seek medical attention right away.
The best way to know if you have high blood pressure is to test it. You can purchase a monitor that you can use to measure your blood pressure at home but be sure to schedule a physical with your regular doctor at least once a year.
Symptoms of High Blood Pressure
Symptoms aren't always present when your blood pressure is elevated, but it's important to pay attention to them when they are. Keep a lookout for any of these:
- More frequent or severe headaches
- Rapid heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Vision problems
- Blood in your urine
Notice that many of these symptoms are nonspecific and could be due to a number of different conditions. That is why it's so important to have your blood pressure checked so you can know for sure why these issues are occurring and whether they might be related to hypertension.
High Blood Pressure Treatment for Invisible Symptoms
Often people don't realize that they have high blood pressure because their symptoms are easily overlooked. They frequently don't interfere with normal activity. The problem is that the high blood pressure is still doing damage to your body.
Even though the symptoms can be in certain ways invisible, high blood pressure can have very serious effects. By the time you begin to notice these effects, much damage may already have occurred due to the ongoing high blood pressure. That's why it's important to do all you can to normalize your blood pressure at an early stage.
Most routine physicals include checking your blood pressure. If your doctor is concerned, don't ignore it. You might be surprised to learn that even simple lifestyle changes like eating better and getting more exercise can go a long way toward counteracting hypertension.
Regular checkups will help to reduce the risk of damage to your body from uncontrolled high blood pressure. The sooner hypertension is diagnosed and you make a change to more healthy habits, the sooner you'll see improvements in your blood pressure. Over time, you'll start to feel better too.
To get proper treatment for your high blood pressure start by seeing your doctor or healthcare provider. Be sure to do your part in identifying whether or not you have high blood pressure.