• Hypertension

    on May 16th, 2017

Why Managing Hypertension is Key to Good Health

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is known as a “silent killer” because you can live with it for years without suffering any symptoms. But it strains your heart, damages blood vessels, and increases your risk of serious health complications, such as stroke and heart attack. About 76 million people in the United States have the condition, and the American Heart Association estimates that 20% of them don’t even know it.

You can catch hypertension before it causes serious complications. Regular screenings at your annual exams let you know if you’re at risk of developing the condition or if you already have it.

Here at Florida Family Practice in Tampa and Wesley Chapel, Florida, we encourage you to implement lifestyle changes to help lower your high blood pressure. If necessary, we can prescribe medications that can help control your blood pressure numbers.

Understand What Blood Pressure Measures

“Blood pressure” refers to the force that your blood exerts against your artery walls. The upper number, called systolic, is the pressure when your heart beats. The lower number, called diastolic, is the pressure when your heart rests between beats. The upper number is always higher.

Normal, healthy blood pressure measures less than 120/80. You’re diagnosed as prehypertensive, meaning you have yet to develop hypertension but may be at risk, when your upper number ranges from 120-139, and the lower number is 80-89.

High blood pressure is categorized in stages:

A hypertensive crisis, which is extremely serious and requires immediate medical intervention, is when blood pressure is higher than 180/110.

Why Management is Key

When your blood pressure isn’t managed, you’re at particular risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure, vision loss, sexual dysfunction, kidney disease, chest pain, and peripheral artery disease.

High blood pressure damages blood vessels, making them vulnerable to a greater accumulation of LDL cholesterol — the bad stuff. Your heart and the entire circulatory system has to work harder to pump blood, making your system weaker and vulnerable to chronic illness.

If you have high blood pressure combined with other risk factors, such as high blood sugar, low levels of HDL “good” cholesterol, high levels of triglycerides, or a large waist, you’re at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other inflammatory conditions.

Steps to Improve Blood Pressure

The first step in taking care of your blood pressure is to know your numbers. If you come to our office and have high blood pressure, you might be asked to monitor it at home with a portable cuff or stop in at a local drugstore that has a blood pressure machine. Some people have “white coat syndrome” in which their high blood pressure is only a result of the stress of a doctor’s office visit – not something chronic.

If you and the doctor establish that regular readings do reveal high blood pressure, you can take actions to lower it. If you smoke, it’s time to quit.

Eat to Lower Your Blood Pressure

Weight loss is particularly helpful in controlling your blood pressure, especially if you’re a man with a girth that exceeds 40 inches or a woman with a waist larger than 35 inches. Talk to the doctor about long-term steps you can take to drop the weight. Keeping it off is an important goal, too. For people with heart disease, yo-yo dieting may increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke, according to a 2017 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Eat plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins, such as white-meat chicken and fish. Enjoy healthy fats, including olive oil and avocados. You’ll also need to lower your sodium intake by reducing processed foods and cutting back gradually on the salt shaker.

Limiting alcohol intake can also help keep your blood pressure in check. For women, the limit is 1 drink a day. Men older than 65 benefit from no more than 1 drink a day, while men younger than 65 can indulge in up to 2 per day. One drink is a 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.

“Move” Yourself to a Healthier Blood Pressure

You know exercise does a body good, and it helps keep your blood pressure at a healthy level, too. Moving your body contributes to weight management and keeps your circulatory system in tip-top shape. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio on most days of the week. Brisk walking, cycling, swimming, and dancing count. If you have a few extra pounds to lose, work up to 60-90 minutes on most days.

Remember to ease into these levels of exercise. If you’re a couch potato now, gradually add a 10-minute walk daily. After a few weeks, extend it to 15 minutes, and continue adding time every few weeks until you reach your goal. Trying to add it all at once increases your stress load, which may adversely affect your blood pressure.

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