From unplanned sick visits to routine annual exams, every health care appointment begins with a blood pressure measurement. There are several important reasons we ask you to slip your arm into a blood pressure cuff each time you see Tyneza Mitchell, FNP, and our skilled team at Comprehensive Care Clinic:
This May, in recognition of High Blood Pressure Education Month, we’d like to highlight a few key facts about hypertension — an exceptionally common and damaging health problem that many people don’t even know they’re living with. Here’s why the so-called silent killer should be on everyone’s radar.
The term blood pressure (BP) refers to the degree of force (low, normal, or high) that your blood exerts against your arteries or the blood vessels that transport oxygen-rich blood from your heart and lungs to the rest of your body.
Your BP reading consists of two measurements. The first number (systolic pressure) shows the amount of force your blood exerts on your arteries when your heart beats. The second number (diastolic pressure) shows how much force your blood exerts on your arteries as your heart rests between beats.
BP readings fall into four main categories:
Many factors — including stress, caffeine, a full bladder, and “white coat” anxiety — can affect your BP reading. Accordingly, one elevated reading doesn’t equate to an official diagnosis — it’s a cue to evaluate further. Elevated or high BP is diagnosed after a few consistently high BP readings.
Hypertension, or chronically high blood pressure, develops when your blood constantly exerts excessive force against the walls of your arteries. Uncontrolled hypertension is a serious disease that progresses in stages, damaging your circulatory system along the way.
This effectively sets the stage for chronic illnesses like heart disease, peripheral artery disease, and kidney disease; it also significantly increases your chances of having a heart attack or stroke, two leading causes of death in the U.S.
But the ultimate danger of hypertension lies in its “silence.” Because it doesn’t cause obvious symptoms, you can live with it for years and never know you have it. The only way to detect it? Having routine blood pressure screenings.
Nearly half of all adults (47%) in the United States — or about 116 million Americans — have diagnosed hypertension. Millions more have elevated BP levels that leave them susceptible to developing hypertension, and most aren’t aware of their condition.
But it’s not all bad news: High BP is easy to detect, highly treatable, and readily preventable. The first step? Having regular screenings. The second? Knowing your personal risk factors.
Certain unmodifiable factors increase your risk of developing hypertension. They are:
Your gender can also elevate your hypertension risk: Men are more likely than women to have high BP in middle age, but among older adults, women carry the highest risk. Women who have gestational hypertension during pregnancy are more likely to develop it as they age.
Many of the biggest hypertension risk factors are manageable or modifiable. These include:
Having certain chronic conditions — including diabetes, sleep apnea, and kidney disease — can also make hypertension more likely, especially if those conditions aren’t well controlled.
While knowing the major risk factors for hypertension is to your advantage, it’s important to recognize that anyone can develop this indiscriminate health problem.
Having routine BP screenings and addressing any modifiable risk factors (i.e., getting more exercise, eating a healthier diet, losing weight, reducing stressors) can go a long way toward mitigating your risk — and protecting your long-term health.
If you don’t know your BP numbers, now is the right time to have them checked. Call or click online to schedule a visit at Comprehensive Care Clinic in Spring, Texas, today.