Hypertension: The Spy Among Us

Hypertension: The Spy Among Us

If hypertension were a character in a spy novel, its name would be “the silent killer.” It would live quietly among us, moving unseen as it destroys us from within. If undiscovered for long, it could even bring death.

A dangerous enemy indeed. But this foe is not fictional. Many people encounter it in their lives and fail to take action. More well-known as high blood pressure, some of its calling cards include:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Kidney damage
  • Vision loss
  • Angina (chest pain caused when the heart doesn’t get enough oxygen-rich blood) and
  • Peripheral artery disease (clotting in the arteries circulating blood throughout the body)

High blood pressure is the so-called symptomless disease – the silent killer – because there really aren’t any telltale signs it exists. If left untreated, high blood pressure can cause problems for life. But you’re not helpless. In fact, taking some simple steps early and often can help keep the problems it causes at bay.

Uncovering the Mystery
Many people have high blood pressure without knowing it. A routine health exam will let you know if you do.

Your doctor can measure both your systolic blood pressure (the pressure on the artery walls when the heart beats) and your diastolic pressure (the pressure on the artery walls when the heart relaxes between beats). The machine that measures blood pressure uses the term mm/HG because it measures in millimeters of mercury. The preferred pressure is less than 120 systolic and 80 diastolic (120/80), says the American Heart Association (AHA).

Blood pressure readings higher than 140/90 often means a person may be at risk for serious problems, the AHA says. If a health exam shows that you have high blood pressure, your doctor will suggest ways to treat it .

Things That Raise Your Risk of High Blood Pressure
There are a number of things that can raise your risk of high blood pressure.These include:

Want to know what problems high blood pressure may cause for you? The AHA’s risk calculator will estimate, based on your blood pressure and other factors, your risk for heart attack, stroke, kidney disease and more. It also will estimate how lifestyle changes can lower your blood pressure and health risks. Give it a try.

Taking Steps to Prevent and Treat High Blood Pressure
If you don’t have high blood pressure, there are a few simple steps you can take to help ensure you never will. These steps will also help treat and reduce the problems it causes for those who do have it. These are but a few of the lifestyle changes that could help:

  • Improve your diet – Start by cutting your salt intake. Limit sugars. And aim for a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole-grain foods, beans, skinless poultry and lean meats and fish.
  • Get active – Even a little exercise, such as brisk walking for 30 minutes or longer five days a week, helps. Staying active helps reduce high blood pressure, control weight and reduce stress.
  • Keep a healthy weight – Losing as little as five to 10 pounds may help lower your blood pressure. Check your Body Mass Index, which measure you weight in relation to your height. It can help tell you a healthy weight you might aim for.
  • Avoid tobacco smoke and limit alcohol – Each cigarette smoked temporarily raises blood pressure. Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure. Limit alcohol use to no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one a day for women .

So get moving on improving your health before the pressure's on! Talk to your doctor for more information on blood pressure and Coronary Artery Disease.