High blood pressure has been dubbed the “Silent Killer,” because those who have it typically show no signs or symptoms, making it that much more dangerous. Unless treated, however, the consequences to your health can be very serious.
With May being National High Blood Pressure Education Month, it’s important to know that getting one’s blood pressure checked regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, eating heart-healthy, low sodium food, exercising regularly and limiting alcohol consumption are lifestyle changes that will help prevent hypertension.
And that is critically important, as high blood pressure can cause stroke, kidney disease, sexual dysfunction, vision loss, heart disease and other cardiovascular-related health problems, said Dr. Jennifer Nguyen, a cardiologist with Kaiser Permanente Southern California.
What is high blood pressure?
When your blood pressure is taken, it measures the force of blood that’s being pushed against the walls of your blood vessels. If your blood pressure is high, this means the pressure of blood flowing in your arteries is higher than desired. This causes your heart to work harder, which could eventually result in heart failure, stroke or a heart attack.
Ideally, normal blood pressure should be below 120/80 mm Hg, according to Dr. Nguyen.
The American Heart Association notes the following risk factors increase your probability of developing high blood pressure:
- Physical inactivity
- Being obese or overweight
- Smoking and being exposed to secondhand smoke
- High cholesterol
- A diet high in salt
- Drinking too much alcohol
“It’s important to measure your blood pressure on a regular basis, and if you do have hypertension, never ignore it,” Dr. Nguyen cautioned. “Having high blood pressure is a cause for concern as it is a health condition that can result in serious health issues. However, once you know, you can treat it in most cases by making minor but important changes in your diet and lifestyle that can reduce or eliminate hypertension.”