Blood pressure is linked with so many other aspects of our health. Having high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, heart attack, mental decline, and stroke. So why don’t people care about their blood pressure half as much as they, perhaps, should? Here are some of the top reasons:
Not knowing they have high blood pressure
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons people are not concerned with high blood pressure (or hypertension) is because many people have high blood pressure without knowing it. Blood pressure is known the “silent killer” and has very few outward symptoms.
Some symptoms may include
- Blood spots in the eyes due to nerve damage caused by high blood pressure.
- Frequent facial flushing, which occurs with the blood vessels in the face dilate.
- High blood pressure can cause other conditions that lead to dizziness and fatigue.
Do not wait for these symptoms to check for high blood pressure—not everyone gets them. The surest way to see if you have high blood pressure is to get it checked.
Not getting blood pressure checked regularly
Because there aren’t many symptoms of high blood pressure, the best way to know you have it is to monitor your blood pressure. You should get your blood pressure checked every time you have a check-up or doctor’s appointment. It’s up to you to make sure that you get your regular checkup.
You can also learn to check your blood pressure at home. With the right tools and knowledge, you can easily monitor your blood pressure. And it may not even require a cuff. There are many wearable devices and even apps that can help you measure your blood pressure.
To see if you have high blood pressure, it takes more than one reading. Make sure you check your high blood pressure over a period of weeks or months. If your blood pressure is consistently higher than the normal range, do what you can to lower it (see the “how to lower high blood pressure” section below). Then talk with your doctor about what you can do.
Not knowning what the numbers mean
Perhaps you do get your blood pressure checked regularly. You hear your doctor say a few numbers, but do you know what those numbers mean?
The top number is systolic blood pressure. This is your blood pressure when your heart beats. The bottom number is diastolic blood pressure, which is your blood pressure when your heart rests between beats.
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury, or mm Hg. It is read as systolic over diastolic.
According to the American Heart Association, this is what the numbers indicate:
|Low||≤ 90||≤ 60|
|Normal||≤ 120||≤ 80|
|Elevated (Pre-hypertension)||120 – 129||≥80|
|High (stage 1 hypertension)||≥ 130||≥ 80|
|High (stage 2 hypertension)||140 +||90 +|
|Hypertensive Crisis||180 +||120 +|
Not understanding the risks
Perhaps some do not pay too close attention to their blood pressure because they do not understand the risks. But because high blood pressure can damage blood vessel walls over time, it can contribute to a variety health complications.
High blood pressure can lead to
- Atherosclerosis. Hardened arteries due to plaque buildup.
- Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). The narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries.
- Peripheral artery disease (PAD). A narrowing of the arteries in the legs, arms, stomach, and head, which causes pain and fatigue.
- Microvascular disease (MVD). The inner lining of artery walls is damaged.
- Chest pain (angina). Chest pain is a common symptom of MVD.
- Heart failure. High blood pressure makes the heart pump harder, which causes the heart to enlarge and fail to supply blood to the body.
- Heart attack. High blood pressure can damage artery walls over time and can indicate plaque buildup in the arteries. A heart attack can occur when plaque has broken away from artery walls and forms a clot, blocking blood flow to the heart.
- Cognitive decline. High blood pressure has been linked with increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. You can also decrease that risk by managing blood pressure.
- Stroke. High blood pressure can contribute to blood clots or can make blood vessels burst; this limits blood flow in the brain and can cause a stroke.
- Sexual dysfunction. Hypertension can cause erectile dysfunction in men or lower libido in women.
How to lower high blood pressure
If you care about your blood pressure, and see the need to lower it, here are some guidelines to follow:
- Cut down salt intake
- Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Lower intake of meat and fats
- Manage your cholesterol by eliminating trans and saturated fats, eat healthy fats
- Get plenty of omega-3s (in fatty fish like salmon and mackerel or as a supplement)
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Limit mouthwash use
- Quit smoking
- Limit alcohol and caffeine
- Manage stress
- Supplement with beetroot powder, which opens up your blood vessels
If you have made an effort to lower your blood pressure through a healthy diet and lifestyle and still need help, talk with your doctor about blood pressure medication.