Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is one of the most common health issues facing the population in the United States. To put some numbers to the problem, nearly half of adults (47%) in the US have blood pressure numbers that are higher than we like to see.
Though the team here at Advanced Cardiology Specialists believes that every month is a good time to pay close attention to your heart health, February is American Heart Month, so we’re going to focus on hypertension.
Here’s a look at what hypertension is, the life-threatening complications that stem from high blood pressure, and how we can go about bringing those numbers down.
Understanding blood pressure
Each minute, your heart beats about 60-100 times, pushing oxygenated blood out to your body through the vast network of blood vessels. Under ideal circumstances, this blood flows freely through your veins and arteries.
If, however, you’ve built up plaques in your blood vessels (atherosclerosis), it renders the passageways smaller and increases the pressure inside.
When we measure your blood pressure, we’re measuring the pressure against the walls of your arteries. The top number (systolic) is the pressure during a heartbeat, and the bottom number (diastolic) is the pressure in between heartbeats.
Any number that’s 130/80 or high is considered high blood pressure.
The potential risks of hypertension
It’s impossible to talk about hypertension without using some fairly frightening statistics. The prolonged pressure on your arterial walls places you at far more risk for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the US.
Outside of heart disease, which includes heart attack and heart failure, hypertension places you more at risk for stroke.
The effects of high blood pressure aren’t confined to your cardiovascular system either as hypertension increases your risks for:
- Kidney disease and/or failure
- Vision loss
- Sexual dysfunction (erectile dysfunction)
As you can see, the risks of high blood pressure are quite serious, but the good news is that you can take steps to reverse the course of your health when you have hypertension.
Lowering your blood pressure
You can do several things to lower your blood pressure. If your numbers are high and there’s cause for concern, we may recommend blood pressure medications that help your blood to flow more freely.
As important as these medications are, so, too, are the steps that you take to lower your blood pressure, namely:
- Exercising more, especially aerobic exercise
- Losing weight
- Limiting salt (sodium) in your diet
- Limiting sugar and refined carbohydrates
- Quitting smoking
- Reducing stress
We could write a blog about each of these action items and how they lower blood pressure, but we don’t have the space here. If you recognize that you have issues in any of these areas, such as smoking, carrying extra pounds, or favoring a diet that’s heavy on junk food, these are great places to start to lower your blood pressure.
Of course, we’re happy to sit down with you to come up with the best plan moving forward for addressing your hypertension. Get started by contacting our office in Mountain View, California, to set up an appointment.