Am I At Risk for High Blood Pressure?

May 01, 2023
Am I At Risk for High Blood Pressure?
Did you know that 90% of Americans develop high blood pressure at some point in life? This May, in recognition of High Blood Pressure Education Month, we want to put this common health problem on your radar — and help you learn how to avoid it.

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:

  • A normal blood pressure reading is a key marker of wellness
  • High blood pressure is common, and it doesn’t cause symptoms
  • Catching blood pressure problems early protects your health

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. 

First, get to know your blood pressure numbers

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.

What BP numbers measure 

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.

Understanding a BP reading

BP readings fall into four main categories:

  • Normal blood pressure is at or below 119/79
  • Elevated blood pressure is between 120/80 and 129/80
  • Stage one hypertension begins at 130/80
  • Stage two hypertension develops at 140/90

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.

A silent, health-damaging problem

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. 

Don’t let high BP sneak up on you

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. 

Unalterable risk factors

Certain unmodifiable factors increase your risk of developing hypertension. They are:

  • Genetic predisposition, or a family history of hypertension 
  • Advancing age; as you get older, aging blood vessels make high BP more likely
  • Race or ethnicity; Black and Hispanic adults have higher rates of hypertension 

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.

Manageable risk factors

Many of the biggest hypertension risk factors are manageable or modifiable. These include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Inactivity; lack of exercise
  • Eating a sodium-rich diet 
  • Drinking too much alcohol 
  • Excessive caffeine intake
  • Any form of tobacco use
  • Poor sleep quality/quantity 
  • Living with excessive stress

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.

Keep your blood pressure healthy

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.