May Is National High Blood Pressure Education Month

6 things you might not know about hypertension

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, one in three Americans is living with high blood pressure (hypertension), yet many of these people don’t know it.

What is high blood pressure? In short, it is the force of blood pushing against the walls of our arteries as our heart pumps blood around our body. If our blood vessels are under too much pressure, that can cause problems. We get small tears in our arteries that can become clogged and hardened with cholesterol, which means our hearts can’t do as good of a job and can, in turn, be damaged.

Here are things to know:

  1. Hypertension doesn’t only harm the heart. It also raises the risk of stroke, kidney disease, vision loss and even harms the brain. A recent study from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs found that hypertension can raise the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia, hippocampal sclerosis, microinfarcts (small strokes) and low brain weight, which individually or together cause memory and thinking problems. The researchers stated that there is one good way to lower the risk of each of these conditions: effectively treat hypertension.
  2. It can happen at any age. Most people think of high blood pressure as being a problem of older adults, but in fact, around 25 percent of people ages 35 – 44 have it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says this rate is growing with the increase in obesity among younger adults. They recommend that young people have their blood pressure checked at least once a year.
  3. It has no symptoms. In cartoons, a person might turn red, with steam coming out of their ears, as they exclaim “My blood pressure!” But in fact, hypertension normally has no noticeable symptoms at all. That’s why it’s often called “the silent killer.”
  4. The test doesn’t hurt. Some people are afraid that a blood pressure test will involve needles. It doesn’t. The doctor uses a special cuff that is placed around your upper arm, inflated, and then deflated. Your local pharmacy might have a machine where you can test yourself (though these may not yield a reliable result if you don’t use them correctly, or if the machine is old or poorly maintained).
  5. Blood pressure fluctuates. Our natural daily body rhythms cause our blood pressure to rise and fall during the day. Stress, anxiety and fatigue can, as well. You might have heard of “white coat hypertension,” where a patient is so nervous at the doctor that their blood pressure soars. We now know the opposite is true—perhaps because they feel relaxed and cared for at the doctor’s office, some people will actually have lower blood pressure in that setting! So your doctor may ask you to take blood pressure readings at home with a home monitor. Bring in your monitor so your doctor can show you how to use it correctly.
  6. Talk to your doctor about your own ideal blood pressure. Your doctor is the best person to tell you if you should be treated for high blood pressure, and what your target level should be. We might lower our blood pressure to a safe level with lifestyle changes, such as limiting salt in our diet, quitting smoking, getting more exercise and reducing stress. If this doesn’t do it, the doctor may prescribe medications. Take them as recommended, and report any side effects, such as dizziness or light-headedness.

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise

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