What to do to prevent it?
The fact that so many people have high blood pressure and are able to live their lives pretty much the same as they did before being diagnosed gives the false sense of security that having high blood pressure is not that big of a deal. However, having high blood pressure puts you at risk for much more serious illnesses, such as a heart attack or stroke.
The force of blood being pushed through your arteries to carry oxygenated blood to other areas of your body is called blood pressure. It is normal for your blood pressure to fluctuate throughout the day. The concern is if it stays high all the time, this is referred to as high blood pressure, or hypertension. There are no specific symptoms that are associated with hypertension, but it is found that people who have it are more likely to experience a heart attack, stroke, or kidney failure at some point in their lives. Some medical conditions make you predisposed to developing hypertension, such as diabetes or prehypertension. Prehypertension is when your blood pressure is higher than normal most of the time, but not as high as someone who has hypertension. Blood pressure is measured by two numbers—systolic (the pressure in your arteries when your heart is contracted) is the top number and diastolic (the pressure in your arteries when your heart is at rest, or between beats) is the bottom number. It is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). Please see Fast Facts to see the differences in blood pressure levels for normal, prehypertension, and hypertension.
The treatment of hypertension is a two-step process. It involves your doctor prescribing medications to help control your blood pressure. Due to the variety of ways that blood pressure is regulated in our body, the medications that are available are just as numerous. The bottom line is that blood pressure medications are broken down into groups. All the medicines in one group work on the same part of the body, but might be chemically different from other medicines in the same group. This is important is because everyone’s body is different and how one person’s body responds to a medication might not be how someone else responds. Sometimes until your doctor is able to find the right medications that best control your blood pressure, they will have you try out some and then change or add more as needed. The second step is lifestyle changes, which are also ways to prevent hypertension.
The most important thing that you can do to decrease your risk for getting high blood pressure is making vital changes to your lifestyle. The first change is to eat a healthy diet that is low in salt, total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol, but high in fresh fruits and vegetables. The second change is being active and getting exercise. Even a brisk 10-minute walk three times a day five days a week is better than doing nothing. The third change is not smoking and limiting the amount of alcohol you drink. Always consult with your doctor prior to making any changes in your diet or exercise routine. By implementing all of these changes, you can decrease your risk of getting hypertension or helping keep it under control. The effects of hypertension can be far reaching and have significant impact on your life, but you can live a happy, healthy life with changing a few simple things. To determine your risk level for hypertension or find further information, please visit the American Heart Association (AHA) at https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure?