“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live”
As we discussed a few weeks ago, high-blood pressure affects 1 in 3 Americans. It is a chronic health condition that increases our risk for many other debilitating disease processes. At best, it can be prevented. At second best, it should be as controlled as possible to prevent additional damage to our bodies.
What causes hypertension?
Just as we talked about with diabetes, hypertension is often related to a combination of multiple risk factors.
- Age: increased age means our arteries have been working for a longer time period, making them more prone to stiffening and increasing the resistance the heart needs to pump blood again.
- Overweight: because your heart is pumping against more resistance!
- Alcohol/Tobacco use: If you haven’t noticed, smoking pretty much increased your risk for EVERYTHING. The nicotine found in tobacco products is a vaso-constrictor. In other words, it narrows our blood vessels, making more work for the heart.
- Physical Inactivity: This increases the risk of being overweight AND it means your heart rate is likely on the higher side, again, making the heart work harder.
- Family History of High Blood Pressure
- Other health conditions: These include diabetes, kidney issues, thyroid disease, sleep apnea and certain medications
Signs and Symptoms:
Unfortunately, most people DO NOT have symptoms of high blood pressure. This is why is it extremely pertinent to see a health care provider at least once a year to check your health status. A wellness exam often includes standard lab values for blood sugar, cholesterol, liver and kidney function, and electrolytes. It also includes weight and blood pressure monitoring. The hope with these appointments is to use validated screening tools to recognize chronic disease EARLY ON and prevent as many complications as possible.
IF you have symptoms they may include:
- Shortness of breath
The good news, is that most pharmacies and grocery stores now have automatic blood pressure cuffs that we can all use for free. This cuff does not replace your primary care provider, but it can give you an idea of where your blood pressure sits on a regular basis. If you utilize this option, be sure to document results and share them with your provider at your next appointment.
As I stated previously, the goal is to keep your blood pressure under 130/80.
**If you take your blood pressure at a pharmacy or grocery store be sure to follow the exact directions on the device. IF your result is greater than 180/120 (either number), you need to contact your physician or go to an urgent care walk-in clinic IMMEDIATELY. This condition cannot wait and needs to be treated immediately.
**If you currently have high blood pressure that is being managed by a medical provider, follow the plan of care that you and he/she has agreed upon, including management instructions and keep all follow-up appointments.
In a couple weeks I will discuss prevention and treatment options!