Hypertension or high blood pressure is a serious but often silent condition that affects many people. High blood pressure is caused when the long term force of blood against the walls of your arteries is too high. Over time this can lead to health problems such as heart attack and stroke.
I was diagnosed with high blood pressure when I was 25 years old! At the time it was thought to be related to stress and grief. However, after a few months it didn't get better. I also knew that high blood pressure runs in my family on my mom and dad's side. Most of my family members, as far as I knew, weren't diagnosed so young. I didn't think much about having it initially. After all, my 25th year of life was wrought with all kinds of strife. In my mind, it made sense to me that my blood pressure was high.
I was prescribed blood pressure medicine. I took it as directed most of the time. Despite this, my blood pressure still ran high. My medications were changed many times before the right combination was found. I was also doing things that were in my control such as trying to maintain a mostly healthy weight. I was also exercising and restricting sodium in my diet. Despite my best efforts, my blood pressure could not be managed without medication.
As a nurse practitioner, we treat high blood pressure often. Here are the top 5 things you should know about high blood pressure!
1. You can have it and not know it because often times it does not have any symptoms. You should be getting routine check-ups. Aim for yearly, especially if you are over 30. For most people, a normal blood pressure is 130/80 or less.
2.Know your risk factors. Many of the risk factors are modifiable (you can change). Chances of developing high blood pressure are increased if you are overweight, smoke, have a high sodium intake, a low potassium intake or drink too much alcohol. It is also important to note that it can run in families and is more common in persons of African heritage.
3. You may need medication to manage high blood pressure. It may take some time but there is a treatment or combination of treatments that will work for you. Don't give up.
4. You can only blame high blood pressure on stress for so long. Stress induced high blood pressure does not persist long term. For example, if your blood pressure has been running high for 4 months, it is likely not stress induced.
5. Undiagnosed high blood pressure can lead to many chronic conditions.These conditions include aneurysm (area of blood vessels that weaken and bulge), heart attack, stroke, chronic kidney disease, dementia and vision loss.
Having your blood pressure checked is a simple, painless and easy thing to do for your health. If you are not able to see your clinician routinely, you can often find blood pressure monitors in pharmacies or at the fire station. If you have some of the modifiable risk factors listed above, you can work to eliminate some of them one step at a time.
When was the last time you had your blood pressure checked?
What steps can you make toward a healthier you?
Who can you encourage to get a check-up?