Heart Health Facts: High Blood Pressure
Living a healthy lifestyle is essential for keeping our bodies strong and functioning properly. This includes physical activity, eating nutritional foods, and visiting a physician regularly for wellness checks. One important aspect of a wellness check is monitoring your blood pressure, as many individuals have high blood pressure, or hypertension, and won’t even know it, leaving them at risk of serious health concerns.
Blood Pressure Facts
Blood pressure itself is a normal part of life, as it is simply the pressure of your blood pushing against the artery walls. Throughout the day, this pressure will fluctuate, but if it remains high for too long, it could put you at risk of heart disease and stroke. A blood pressure reading at or above 130/80 mm Hg is considered high hypertension, and once a person has reached 140/90 mm Hg or above, it is considered stage 2.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 45% of adults in the United States have hypertension, but only about 24% have it under control. In 2018, high blood pressure was noted as the primary or contributing cause of death for over 494,800 people in the U.S. Unfortunately, high blood pressure does not usually come with any obvious symptoms, so routine monitoring by a physician is recommended.
Causes of High Blood Pressure
The cause of high blood pressure is different for everyone, and can come in two forms: primary or secondary hypertension. In primary, or essential, hypertension, there is not a specific, identifiable cause of high blood pressure, and it develops gradually over time. Secondary hypertension is caused by an underlying condition, and will usually appear suddenly and cause higher blood pressure than primary. A variety of conditions or medications can lead to secondary hypertension, including:
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Kidney disease
- Adrenal gland tumors
- Thyroid problems
- Congenital defects from birth in the blood vessels
- Certain medications, like birth control pills, cold medicines, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers, and some prescriptions
- Illegal drugs, including cocaine and amphetamines
There are also many risk factors that could lead to high blood pressure, some you can control and some you cannot, such as:
- Your age
- Family history
- Being overweight or obese
- Not being physically active
- Using tobacco products
- Consuming too much salt, or sodium, in your diet
- Not consuming enough potassium
- Drinking too much alcohol
Possible Complications from Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure
Excess pressure on artery walls can lead to damage to your blood vessels and organs. The longer it is uncontrolled and the higher the blood pressure gets, the more damage is done. Complications from uncontrolled high blood pressure include:
- Heart attack or stroke
- Heart failure
- Weakened and narrowed blood vessels in the kidneys
- Thickened, narrowed, or torn blood vessels in the eyes
- Metabolic syndrome
- Issues with memory or understanding
Treatment and Prevention
The absolute best way to prevent high blood pressure is to have it checked by a physician. In an effort to avoid hypertension altogether, or help lower your numbers, be sure to make healthy lifestyle choices. Eat nutritional, heart healthy foods, and participate in regular physical activity. If your blood pressure is not responding to lifestyle changes, or is at a dangerous level, your doctor will most likely prescribe medication to help manage your condition. Be sure to take any medication as prescribed, and visit your physician regularly to monitor your numbers.
Don’t delay having your blood pressure checked; take control of your heart health and visit any of our Midwest Express Clinic locations today.