High blood pressure sneaks up on you as you age. Often posing no symptoms, it works silently in the background—damaging your heart, brain, arteries and other organs.
Of the one in three adults worldwide who have high blood pressure, 20 percent don’t know it. Another quarter of adults have prehypertension, which is a risk factor for the disease. By 2025, an estimated 1.56 billion people will be living with it—prompting the World Health Organization to name hypertension one of the most important causes of premature death worldwide.
Fortunately, it’s also one of the most preventable. By making a few lifestyle changes recommended by the best primary care doctors, Portland residents can lower their blood pressure and reduce their risk of developing hypertension.
Effects of High Blood Pressure
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. It can restrict blood flow to the heart or brain. It can 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 heart attacks (and cases of chronic heart failure) involve high blood pressure. So do eight in 10 first strokes. All in all, hypertension is responsible for more than 55 million doctor visits a year.
“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.
Although it’s a widespread problem, high blood pressure is both preventable and treatable. With help from the best primary care doctors, Portland patients can both prevent hypertension and lower their blood pressure by making healthy lifestyle changes. For example, you can:
Reduce sodium in your diet. Ninety percent of Americans eat too much sodium, which raises blood pressure in most people. Although the recommended intake is just 2,300 mg, we consume an average of 3,400 mg. Lowering our intake to the recommended level could result in 11 million fewer people with hypertension—and save $18 billion a year in health care costs. In one study, 78 percent of people who used the DASH diet (developed specifically to combat hypertension) were able to lower their blood pressure.
Move. Exercise and any type of consistent movement have been medically proven to lower blood pressure. It also helps you 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 also immediate; blood pressure drops within 20 minutes.
Seek treatment. If you do have high blood pressure, medication can help you lower it. Six in 10 patients who take blood pressure medication have their hypertension under control.
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.