Did you know that 1 of every 3 Americans have hypertension? Uncontrolled high blood pressure raises the risk for stroke and heart disease, which are leading causes of death in the United States. Fortunately, high blood pressure can be treated and prevented! To lower your risk for hypertension, check your blood pressure regularly and take action when your blood pressure is too high.
Hypertension is diagnosed when your BP is greater than 140 over 90 on 2 separate occasions. Even if your BP is a just bit lower than that, you’re not out of the woods—that’s called “pre-hypertension.” Patients between 120-139 over 80-89 are still at high risk for developing hypertension along with its complications.
What are the Symptoms of Hypertension?
Hypertension is also known as the “silent killer,” as oftentimes patients will not have any symptoms.
Unfortunately, it lives up to the name: Patients can go DECADES undiagnosed, which is how poor health habits snowball into a self-perpetuating cycle of ever-worsening hypertension. You need to be proactive to make sure this doesn’t happen!
Although people often go a long time without being diagnosed for high blood pressure, there are few telltale signs that may indicate you have it. These include:
- Lapses in mental clarity
- Generalized weakness, fatigue, and lethargy
- Chest pain and shortness of breath
If you recognize any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor about them! Your GP should be able to assess if you have (or are at risk for) hypertension.
Why Does Hypertension Matter?
So what’s the big deal about high blood pressure anyway? Lots of people have it, after all. Unfortunately, being widespread doesn’t mean it’s safe! Persistently high BP over time can lead to life-threatening complications such as:
- Heart failure
- Aortic Dissection
- Kidney failure
Am I at Risk for Hypertension?
Physical symptoms aren’t the only way you can tell if you’re at risk for hypertension. Certain populations have a higher incidence of it as well. These are some of the risk factors for hypertension:
- Family history: Even one parent or sibling with high BP puts you at risk!
- Males and postmenopausal females
- Age > 65 years
- African American Race (80% of women, 65% women)
- Caucasian (65% of women, 55% of men)
- Increased emotional stress
- Cholesterol and HDL cholesterol
- High salt intake
- Excess alcohol intake
- High uric acid level: High fructose corn syrup found in artificial sweeteners, sodas and fruit flavored drinks cause uric acid levels to increase
- Pre-diabetes or diabetes
- Sleep apnea
- Decreased kidney function
Talk to Your Doctor
This is a lot of information to process, but don’t feel overwhelmed! Hypertension is manageable, especially if it’s diagnosed early.
It’s important to talk to you doctor if you think you have hypertension. Start by keeping a daily log of your BP when you are at home. Take this log to your next doctor visit. This extra information will help your doctor decide the best course of action going forward to address your hypertension (if you indeed have it). You may need to be started on medication! Treatment, however, always starts with adopting healthy lifestyle changes such reducing stress, exercising, and eating clean.
This is all for a happier, healthier you!