High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is one of the most common chronic conditions in America, affecting approximately one-third of the nation’s adult population. Hypertension, often called the silent killer, has very few symptoms, so people can go for years without knowing that they have the disease.
Uncontrolled hypertension can have devastating consequences, including heart attack, cardiovascular disease, stroke, vision loss and kidney failure. Many factors can contribute to high blood pressure. You might be at increased risk of hypertension if you:
- Are over age 45 (men) or 65 (women)
- Are obese or overweight
- Smoke or use tobacco
- Don’t exercise regularly
- Consume too much sodium
- Consume too little potassium and vitamin D
- Consume too much alcohol
- Experience uncontrolled stress
If you have any of these risk factors, or if hypertension runs in your family, keep an eye out for the warning signs of high blood pressure.
Symptoms of Hypertension
Because hypertension lacks many obvious outward symptoms, many people go for years without knowing they have high blood pressure. If you do have symptoms, you might notice:
- Severe or persistent headaches
- Confusion and difficulty concentrating
- Chronic fatigue
- Chest pain and irregular heartbeat
- Breathing difficulties
Hypertension’s lack of symptoms makes it a truly dangerous condition. To determine if you are at risk for hypertension, schedule regular check-ups, and screenings with your doctor or healthcare professional.
Hypertension in Pregnancy
Women often experience hypertension during pregnancy; the condition complicates about 10% of all pregnancies. There are four categories of hypertension during pregnancy: chronic hypertension, preeclampsia-eclampsia, preeclampsia superimposed on chronic hypertension, and gestational hypertension. Depending on the severity of hypertension during pregnancy, emergency treatment may be required. First-time moms, women carrying twins, and women younger than 20 or older than 40 are especially at risk for hypertension.
At Brookhaven Heart, we take hypertension very seriously. As such, our procedures pair the latest techniques and technology with the best physicians in the country. If you suspect trouble with your pregnancy, you should contact us immediately. We’ll schedule an appointment and find a solution before conditions worsen. In the end, we aim for a heart-healthy life for both you and your child.
Prevention of Hypertension
At Brookhaven Heart, we suggest the following methods to prevent hypertension:
- Know your blood pressure. Make an appointment with your primary care physician and make a note of your blood pressure. Alternatively, stop at a health fair for a free evaluation, or check your blood pressure at a pharmacy.
- Kick salt. Wherever possible, reduce your intake of salt (sodium) which is known to raise blood pressure.
- Get active. We often forego physical activity due to stress or exhaustion after work. Where possible, try to become more active. If you’re pregnant, speak with your doctor regarding an exercise program. Sedentary women are likely to gain more weight during pregnancy, which increases their blood pressure.
- Know your medication. Try to understand your prescriptions; some may raise blood pressure. Check with your doctor before taking anything to ensure it is safe for you and your blood pressure levels.
Causes of Hypertension
Numerous factors can lead to hypertension. Blood pressure is the force of your blood pressing against the walls of your blood vessels. The heart is designed to pump blood into arteries, which then carry blood throughout the entire body. Hypertension, otherwise known as high blood pressure, makes the heart work harder to pump blood. This strain typically leads to hardened arteries, stroke, kidney disease, or heart failure.
Hypertension is often caused by:
- Too much salt
- Lack of physical activity
- Old age
- Chronic kidney disease
- Sleep apnea
- Alcohol consumption
The older you are, the more likely high blood pressure is to be an issue. Schedule regular appointments with your doctor to keep your blood pressure within reasonable levels. We can manage hypertension together!
Why is it so important to control my hypertension?
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the largest risk factors for heart disease and stroke, both of which are leading causes of death in the country. Nearly one-third of Americans suffer from hypertension, and half of them do not have their symptoms under control. Those with uncontrolled blood pressure may not even know they suffer from hypertension. There are millions taking blood pressure medication, though.
If you fail to control your hypertension, you risk dying from a stroke or heart disease. In fact, you are four times more likely to die of a stroke and three times as likely to die of heart disease if your hypertension is not in check. Even a slightly higher blood pressure can put you at risk of both diseases should you choose to ignore the warning signs associated with hypertension. It is always best to have a doctor examine you if any signs of high blood pressure become evident.
What can I do to prepare to have my hypertension taken?
There are no special preparations required when having a blood pressure test completed. You may want to wear a short-sleeved shirt to your doctor’s appointment, so the nurse or doctor will have an easier time performing the blood pressure test. Your arm needs to be readily available to complete the check.
Other than that, your doctor may want to focus on your high blood pressure during an appointment. If this is the case, you should use the toilet beforehand, avoid eating, drinking caffeinated beverages, or smoking at least one hour before the test is scheduled to occur. Some medications have been known to cause complications during a high blood pressure test – namely antidepressants, birth control pills, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. You should not stop taking the prescription medications, but warn your doctor if you are on any before the trial. They may skew the test results slightly.
What medications are commonly used to treat hypertension?
Your heart doctor may prescribe one of many over-the-counter prescription drugs used to treat hypertension. Such medications may include diuretics, beta blockers, or angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors. All of these have been designed to reduce high blood pressure in a patient. Thiazide diuretics are often the first choice of any doctor when it comes to treating high blood pressure. Such diuretics are often referred to as water pills. They act on your kidney to eliminate sodium and water in the body, reducing the volume of blood throughout your system to reduce your hypertension.
Along with medications, your doctor may recommend a healthy diet with less salt, regular exercise, and zero smoking. Maintaining a healthy weight is a vital part of combating high blood pressure. However, these changes are not always enough, and thus medicine is often prescribed.
What is the treatment goal for hypertension?
Hypertension currently affects 75 million adults in the United States and is a major risk factor for stroke and heart diseases. It is in everyone’s best interest to treat high blood pressure as quickly as possible to ensure we live longer and healthier lifestyles. Of course, treatment can sometimes be difficult to administer. In many cases, your doctor may simply prescribe a healthier lifestyle.
Such changes do not always make a huge difference, though. In some cases, high blood pressure medications are often required to make a difference truly. These treatments focus on reducing your overall high blood pressure levels and returning your body to a healthier, more efficient level. By effectively reducing hypertension in adults, the possible risk of heart disease and stroke drastically reduces. This means less medical debt all around, fewer individuals dying before their time, and more healthy people walking city streets.
Get Screened for Hypertension Today
If you think you might be at risk for high blood pressure, visit Brookhaven Heart for screening today. Managing hypertension begins with understanding the disease and knowing how to care for your body. Our healthcare team can help you figure out how to eat a healthier diet, incorporate more physical activity into your daily routine, sleep better, and avoid stress. With the right support, you can lower your risk of disease and manage your high blood pressure.