High blood pressure (also called hypertension) is one of the most common conditions seen in primary care appointments and affects millions of people in the United States. Some people living with high blood pressure do not realize it because it usually has no symptoms. These people have uncontrolled high blood pressure, meaning they are not treating their blood pressure with lifestyle changes or medication. Controlling high blood pressure can prevent development of long-term complications, such as heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and even vascular dementia. It’s important to understand high blood pressure in order to keep it under control.
I am often asked, “What exactly IS high blood pressure?” Some people ask, “Why do I have high blood pressure?” Others ask, “Will I have to take a pill every day?” These are all great questions!
Let’s start with the definition of high blood pressure. It sounds straight forward, right? Your blood is continually pumping through your body at a high pressure. Where does this “pressure” come from?
Every time your heart beats, blood is pumped through your arteries, veins, and capillaries, producing a certain amount of pressure against these vessels as the blood rushes through. When the pressure is too high, it increases the workload of the heart and the blood vessels. Arterial tissue is very delicate, and the force of high blood pressure can damage the arteries over time, causing small tears where plaque can build up. As more damage and plaque builds up, the arteries become narrower which raises blood pressure even more.
Here are some important measurements to know regarding blood pressure:
There are many factors that can affect blood pressure, including:
- Family history
- Kidney function
- High-sodium diet
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Not exercising regularly
It’s a common misconception that high blood pressure cannot be prevented if your family members have it. While high blood pressure can run in families, there are many modifiable lifestyle choices that can reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure. Here are some ways to prevent high blood pressure and also assist with lowering elevated blood pressure in its early stages:
- Eat a diet low in salt – check food labels for sodium content
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables – many fruits and vegetables are high in potassium which can help lower blood pressure
- Exercise regularly – find an activity that you enjoy doing and stick with it!
- Do not smoke
- Limit alcohol intake
- Maintain a healthy weight and avoid overeating
- Schedule an appointment with your primary care provider at Valley-Wide!
If your blood pressure is consistently elevated after making lifestyle changes, your primary care provider may recommend you take a daily medication to help lower your blood pressure and prevent the long-term complications.
If you have any questions or concerns related to high blood pressure, you can schedule an appointment to discuss them with your provider. You can work together to create a prevention or treatment plan to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range.