Chances are, you probably know at least one person in your life who has high blood pressure, right? If you do, it’s certainly not surprising. Just last year, the American Heart Association estimated that about 45.6 percent of Americans suffer from high blood pressure in the United States. Yet despite this, there are still some who ask, what is hypertension?
This general lack of understanding about what blood pressure is, what it measures, and how it can lead to serious health complications is one of our biggest enemies in the fight against high blood pressure and heart disease.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition in which the force of the blood against your artery walls is too high, which over time can cause damage to your heart and arteries. Blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries, so the more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure.
Starting in 2017, the ACC/AHA released new high blood pressure guidelines, lowering the definition of high blood pressure to account for a number of complications that occur at lower numbers, thus improving early detection.
Below are the new categories for high blood pressure guidelines. As you go through them, an important point to remember is that blood pressure readings are given in millimeters of mercury (mm HG) as two numbers. The first, or upper number, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats, known as the systolic pressure. The second, or lower number, measures the pressure in your arteries between the beats, known as the diastolic pressure.
Normal: Less that 120/80 mm Hg
Elevated: Systolic between 120-129 and diastolic less than 80;
Stage 1 Hypertension: Systolic between 130-139 or diastolic between 80-89;
Stage 2 hypertension: Systolic at least 140 or diastolic at least 90 mm Hg.
Taking your blood pressure is easy and can let you know if you are constantly falling on the higher side of the numbers. If you are, you’ll want to call your doctor and be prepared to ask them questions about your situation. Bring a list of all medications, including vitamins and supplements you are taking, as some of these may be the culprit.
Discuss family history, extracurricular activities such as smoking and drinking habits, exercise routine or lack thereof, and overall general health and diet. Your physician will better determine what course of action needs to be taken to reduce your blood pressure. Whether it is medication, change in diet and exercise, or simply more testing, not following through on check-ups and necessary treatments can eventually result in serious complications, such as:
Heart attack or stroke. High blood pressure can cause hardening and thickening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which can lead to a heart attack, stroke or other complications.
Aneurysm. Increased blood pressure can cause your blood vessels to weaken and bulge, forming an aneurysm. If an aneurysm ruptures, it can be life-threatening.
Heart failure. To pump blood against the higher pressure in your vessels, your heart muscle thickens. Eventually, the thickened muscle may have a hard time pumping enough blood to meet your body’s needs, which can lead to heart failure.
Weakened and narrowed blood vessels in your kidneys. This can prevent these organs from functioning normally.
Thickened, narrowed or torn blood vessels in the eyes. This can result in vision loss.
Metabolic syndrome. This syndrome is a cluster of disorders related to your body’s metabolism, including increased waist circumference; high triglycerides; low high-density lipoprotein (HDL); or “good,” cholesterol; high blood pressure; and high insulin levels.
Trouble with memory or understanding. Uncontrolled high blood pressure may also affect your ability to think, remember and learn. Trouble with memory or understanding concepts is more common in people with high blood pressure.
Seeing your doctor regularly will allow you and your doctor to monitor your blood pressure as part of your annual exam. If your results seem high your doctor may look back at your history or ask you to check your blood pressure at home or at a pharmacy with a free monitor. You want to make sure you are checking at different times of the day and not to ingest caffeine prior to testing as this may increase your blood pressure giving you inaccurate results. To learn more about what is hypertension and how it is affecting your heart health, feel free to contact us or book an appointment.