You’ve seen the machines at the grocery store, felt the uncomfortable pressure of the cuff squeezing your arm at the doctor, and maybe even tried the new wrist monitors at your last teeth cleaning – but you never thought high blood pressure was something that would happen to you. It’s something grandpas get, right? Actually, it’s a lot more common than you think: nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. And left unchecked, it can lead to critical health issues. Below, we’ve gathered the most important things to know about this condition, so you can stay aware and stay healthy!
Let’s start with the basic facts: high blood pressure is when the force of blood flowing through your blood vessels is consistently too high. It is measured with two numbers – systolic and diastolic. A normal range is a systolic that is less than 120 and a diastolic that is less than 80, and high blood pressure stage 1 is a systolic number that is between 130 and 139 or a diastolic number that is between 80 and 89. If you think you have high blood pressure, it must be confirmed with a reading done by your doctor.
There are not necessarily obvious, outwardly signs that you have high blood pressure. That’s why it’s known as “the silent killer.” However, certain people do have higher risk factors. According to the AHA, a family history, old age, being a man under 64, being a woman older than 65, being African-American and having chronic kidney disease could all up your chances genetically. On the other hand, anyone who skips the gym too often (we all need physical activity daily!), has an unhealthy diet (especially high in sodium), is overweight or obese, drinks too much alcohol, has sleep apnea, has high cholesterol, has diabetes, smokes or uses tobacco, and is under a lot of stress can develop high blood pressure. A full list of risk factors can be found online.
The reason high blood pressure is such a big deal? It can cause severe damage to your body – everything from sexual dysfunction to heart failure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 7 of every 10 people having their first heart attack, 8 of every 10 people having their first stroke, 7 of every 10 people with chronic heart failure have high blood pressure. The AHA also explains that uncontrolled high blood pressure can cause heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, kidney disease or failure, vision loss, sexual dysfunction, angina, peripheral artery disease and more.
The best way to reverse or prevent high blood pressure is to take care of your heart. Limit alcohol and smoking, eat a well-balanced diet that is low in salt, exercise regularly and take medications prescribed by your doctor.
High blood pressure does not have to be scary. By spreading awareness, realizing it can happen to you and taking steps to keep it under control, you can help yourself (and others) to a healthier life!