Hypertension sneaks up on you as you age. It works silently in the background—damaging your heart, brain, arteries and other organs–often posing no clear symptoms. By making a few lifestyle changes recommended by your primary care doctor, Portland residents can lower their blood pressure and reduce their risk of developing hypertension.
If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, don’t let it be a factor in your life. Here’s what you need to know about hypertension.
Who’s Affected by Hypertension?
If you have high blood pressure, you’re not alone. Over U.S adults experience hypertension, with nearly 20 percent of people unaware they have it. One in three American adults also have prehypertension and experience above average blood pressure numbers, which is a risk factor leading to disease. By 2025, an estimated 1.56 billion people will be living with hypertension—prompting the World Health Organization to name it one of the most important causes of premature death worldwide. Common high-risk groups include:
- Men and women over 40
- People with a family history of hypertension
- Smokers and high alcohol users
- Physically inactive or overweight individuals
- People experiencing high stress
Symptoms of High Blood Pressure
Hypertension occurs when your blood pressure is above 130/80, and is considered severe if pressure is above 180/120. While some people may not experience symptoms until they reach serious levels, you should contact a doctor if you struggle with any of the warning signs associated with hypertension. These include:
- Severe headache
- Fatigue or confusion
- Chest pain
- Irregular heartbeat
- Chest or head pounding
- Vision problems
Effects of Hypertension
Because blood vessels infiltrate every organ in the body, high blood pressure has the potential to cause widespread damage. It can cause arteries to narrow and weaken. High blood pressure can also restrict blood flow to the heart or brain. It can also damage delicate organs such as the eyes and kidneys.
“Like the pipes in your house, your arteries can fail if they are under too much pressure,” says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Seven out of every 10 first-time heart attacks (and cases of chronic heart failure) and eight in 10 strokes involve high blood pressure. According to the CDC, hypertension is responsible for more than 55 million doctor visits annually.
“Blood pressure should be measured regularly because it can change markedly over the course of a couple years, and put you at high-risk for an adverse event,” said Dr. M. Arfan Ikram, senior author of a study on hypertension.
Preventing High Blood Pressure
Although it’s a widespread problem, high blood pressure is both preventable and treatable. With help from your primary care doctor, Portland patients can both prevent hypertension and lower blood pressure by making healthy lifestyle changes. For example, you can:
Eat Healthy– Ninety percent of Americans eat too much sodium, which raises blood pressure in most people. Although the recommended intake is 2,300 mg, we consume an average of 3,400 mg. Lowering our sodium intake to the suggested level could result in a 25.6 percent overall decrease in blood pressure and an estimated $26.2 billion in medical savings. In one study, 78 percent of people who used the DASH Diet (developed specifically to combat hypertension) were able to lower their blood pressure.
Exercise Regularly – Exercise and any type of consistent movement is medically proven to lower blood pressure. Movement also helps your body maintain a healthy weight, which is another factor in preventing hypertension. Just 30 minutes or more of moderate aerobic exercise, five times a week will measurably reduce blood pressure.
Quit smoking – Smoking immediately elevates blood pressure. Although this effect is usually temporary, tobacco damages the arteries, which can lead to a more long-term blood pressure hike. Fortunately, when you quit smoking the effects are immediate, and blood pressure drops within 20 minutes. If you need guidance, here are five methods to help you quit smoking.
Seek help – Have a doctor measure your blood pressure and discuss ways to control hypertension. You doctor may recommend strategies–along with the lifestyle changes above–to help lower your blood pressure levels.
Manage High Blood Pressure Medications
There are a number of hypertension medications that help control high blood pressure a doctor may recommend. If a physician recommends a hypertension drug, it’s important to take it as directed to avoid any major symptoms associated with poor blood pressure. You’ll also want to consult with your doctor about drug side effects and choosing a medication that’s right for you. If you’re struggling with medication compliance, we recommend trying a mobile app or creating routines that make staying on top of your prescriptions a little easier.
Although the risks increase as you age, high blood pressure doesn’t have to be a problem in your life. You can take control of hypertension by developing healthy living habits and getting your blood pressure checked regularly.