It’s been called a “silent killer” with good reason. And good reason why the month of May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, as blood pressure that is higher than normal. Left untreated, it can lead to heart disease and potentially stroke.
Blood pressure is the pressure of blood pushing against your arteries which transport blood from your heart to other parts of your body. In 2017 the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association published new guidelines for hypertension management and redefined hypertension as blood pressure at or above 130/80. Stage 2 Hypertension is blood pressure at or above 140/90.
The first number noted is called systolic pressure, which indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when the heart beats.
The second number noted is diastolic pressure, which measures the pressure when your heart relaxes and fills with blood.
High blood pressure is indiscriminate and affects a great number of Americans each year. But with proper diet, exercise, life-style modifications and good communication with your Family Medicine Practitioner or Primary Care Physician, hypertension can be effectively monitored and treated. Here are some additional Fast Facts about high blood pressure, or hypertension, based on 2019 statistical data from the CDC:
- Nearly half of adults in the United States (47 percent or 116 million) have high blood pressure.
- Only about 1 in 4 adults with hypertension have their condition under control.
- High blood pressure was a primary contributing cause of death for more than 500,000 in the U.S. in 2019.
- High blood pressure costs the United States about $ 131 billion each year.
Your gender, race, and even where you live have some bearing on your likelihood of having high blood pressure. For example:
- A greater percentage of men (50%) have high blood pressure than women (44%).
- High blood pressure is more common in non-Hispanic black adults (56%) than in non-Hispanic white adults (48%), non-Hispanic Asian adults (46%), or Hispanic Adults (39%).
Adults living in the Southeast and South have a higher age-adjusted prevalence of high blood pressure than in other geographical parts of the United States.
How can you determine if high blood pressure poses a risk to your personal health?
Natalie Swartz, APRN with Brevard Health Alliance, shares three of the common symptoms of hypertension to be aware of and discuss with your doctor.
“There’s a reason hypertension is called the “silent killer,” explains Swartz.
“Some of the most common symptoms are having no symptoms at all. Many patients have no warning signs like they would in diagnosing other medical conditions like diabetes or arthritis.”
Swartz said the most common way to detect hypertension is routine monitoring of blood pressure and good communication with your primary care physician.
“Screening for hypertension is simply done by checking blood pressure which is usually done during an office visit. This should be done at least yearly for all adults 18 years and older.”
Swartz added that once diagnosed, there are two approaches to managing hypertension.
“In many cases, the main treatment for elevated blood pressure is with diet and lifestyle modifications,” she explains.
“Those modifications could include steps such as decreasing sodium in diet, decreasing alcohol consumption, smoking cessation and regular exercise.”
In some cases, medications are prescribed to manage high blood pressure. So, naturally, the question arises: if a patient begins on medications to manage hypertension, will they remain on those medications indefinitely?
Swartz said that the decision should be based on clear discussions between the patient and the medical provider.
“Commencing an anti-hypertensive medication is an individualized decision that should be made between both patient and provider. Certain factors need to be taken into account such as blood pressure readings, patient risk factors for hypertension, and family history.”