Know Your Risks For Hypertension
(BlackDoctor.org) — High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a leading cause of heart attack, stroke, heart failure and kidney disease. High blood pressure is bad because it makes your heart work harder than normal to pump enough blood and oxygen to your organs. It can cause the heart to enlarge and weaken, and can damage your artery walls.
According to the American Heart Association, in 2006 the death rates per 100,000 people from high blood pressure were 15.6 for white males, 51.1 for black males, 14.3 for white females and 37.7 for black females.
Blood pressure is normal if it’s 120/80 or below. The range of 120/80 to 140/90, which was once classified as normal to high, is now considered to be prehypertensive.
If your blood pressure falls somewhere in the prehypertensive range, it could quickly develop into high blood pressure. Most doctors now recommend lifestyle changes to lower blood pressure for anyone with a reading above 120/80. If you have added risk factors such as being overweight or having high blood sugar or cholesterol, the concern is even greater.
Even though you may not have any symptoms, high blood pressure increases your risk for cardiovascular disease. Since that type of strain on your heart is the cause of death for one out of every three Americans, any evidence of high blood pressure is cause for concern.
How to Lower High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a treatable condition. Most doctors recommend starting with these lifestyle changes to lower blood pressure:
• Stop smoking
• Lose weight
• Limit alcohol and caffeine
• Eat a healthy, low-sodium diet
• Reduce your stress levels
When lifestyle changes are not enough, your doctor may prescribe one or more antihypertensive medications. You may need to take blood pressure medication for the rest of your life to keep your condition under control. Remember: Stopping medication on your own can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
What happens if you’ve made lifestyle changes and you’re taking medication, but your blood pressure is still out of control? Doctors call this resistant hypertension. Resistant hypertension occurs in about 20-30% of people with high blood pressure. Some common causes include:
• Uncontrolled risk factors. Poor control of risk factors such as obesity and diabetes can contribute to resistant hypertension.
• Not taking medications as directed. Failure to take medication on schedule or stopping medication without a doctor’s approval can cause blood pressure to go up.
• Alcohol and salt intake. Many people with resistant high blood pressure are not controlling their intake of salt and alcohol.
• Effects of other drugs. Over-the-counter pain relievers, decongestants and some herbal compounds can interfere with blood pressure control.
• Other health conditions. Medical conditions such as sleep apnea and diseases of the adrenal glands or kidneys can cause resistant high blood pressure.
If you are having trouble controlling your blood pressure, work with your doctor to find out how you can better manage risk factors. Your doctor may want to perform some additional tests to make sure there are no other medical conditions contributing to your high blood pressure.
The Need for Regular Blood Pressure Checks
The bad news is that hypertension is often called “the silent killer” because it can go undetected for years since it has no outward symptoms. The good news is that high blood pressure is very easily checked and there are many options today to control it.
To prevent cardiovascular disease and other possible effects of high blood pressure, it is important to have your blood pressure checked regularly. Blood pressure that was once considered to be high-normal is now a cause for concern. If you work with your doctor to find the right combination of lifestyle changes and medication, you will probably be able to control your high blood pressure over time.