About half of the adults in the United States are living with hypertension, or high blood pressure, but many have no idea. With high blood pressure, you don’t usually have any symptoms at all. You feel fine, yet your health is at grave risk.
The expert providers at Heart & Vascular Institute can help you understand what your blood pressure reading means and, if necessary, get your hypertension under control.
In this post, we examine why it’s important to treat high blood pressure even if you feel okay and describe some of the risks associated with this common but dangerous condition.
Your blood pressure consists of two numbers, one “over” another. For example, normal blood pressure is 120 or lower over 80 or lower.
The top number is your systolic blood pressure, which is the amount of force on the walls of your arteries when your heart beats. The second number is your diastolic blood pressure, and that’s the amount of force on the walls of your arteries between beats.
Your heart is a pump, and with each pump the blood pushes harder against your arteries, so that’s why the top number is always higher than the bottom number.
Primary hypertension doesn’t have an identifiable cause, and tends to develop slowly over the course of many years. Secondary hypertension is caused by something else — like sleep apnea, certain medications, or kidney disease.
Some risk factors make it more likely for you to have high blood pressure. Your risk increases with age, and people with African heritage seem to be at greater risk. Being sedentary or overweight increases the likelihood of high blood pressure.
Your diet is important as well. People who eat too much salt or not enough potassium have increased risk. Drinking too much alcohol is also associated with hypertension.
Without treatment, high blood pressure can cause serious problems, like a heart attack or stroke. Aneurysm, heart failure, and kidney disease are also potential issues when your blood vessels are damaged due to hypertension.
Other health concerns include metabolic syndrome, which is a complex group of disorders that can lead to diabetes, heart disease, or stroke. Issues with memory can happen because of hypertension, and so can dementia.
One of the first and most important steps you can take in lowering your blood pressure is to make a few lifestyle modifications. If you smoke, quit. Evaluate your diet to make sure it’s nutritious, varied, and low sodium.
Talk to your doctor about exercise. You can begin with something as simple as walking a few times a week. If you’re overweight, aim to reach a healthy weight.
You may need medication to help lower your blood pressure, reduce fluid buildup, and make your blood vessels more flexible. You may need to monitor your blood pressure at home, over time.
If you have risk factors or you haven’t had your blood pressure checked in a while, schedule an appointment at one of our three convenient Heart & Vascular Institute locations in Dearborn, Detroit, or Southfield, Michigan.