Did you know you may be one of the 30 percent of Americans who have hypertension? Also known as high blood pressure, hypertension is a common problem that can affect your health in many ways. It affects people of all ages, even children.
Almost 20 percent of people who have hypertension don’t know they have it. And not knowing—or having uncontrolled hypertension—means you could have a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, including heart attack, heart failure, and stroke, as well as kidney disease and eye disease.
Hypertension is also a disease in its own right, responsible for more than 60,000 deaths every year. Because it is a serious condition that has few symptoms or warning signals, it is sometimes called the “silent killer.”
The good news is there are several steps you can take to prevent hypertension, or treat it. In addition to specific lifestyle changes and medications to lower your blood pressure,innovative new therapies such as renal denervation may also be appropriate for specific people with hypertension.
What Is High Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the force of blood pressing against the inside of the arteries when the heart beats and when the heart is at rest.
Blood pressure readings are recorded with two numbers, one over the other, as a ratio. For example, a normal blood pressure reading should be less than 120 over 80 millimeters of mercury. Systolic pressure is the top number, in this example 120, which measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. Diastolic pressure is the bottom number, in this example 80, which measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest. If your blood pressure is in the borderline range or high blood pressure range, it is higher than it should be and you should talk to your doctor more about diagnosing hypertension and treating hypertension to prevent serious health problems.
How Does High Blood Pressure Cause Health Problems?
If you have hypertension, your blood moves through the arteries with too much force against the inside of the artery walls. The result can be harmful effects throughout the body such as the following:
- Damage and weakening of the walls of the heart’s arteries, and damage to the heart itself, which must work harder to pump blood through the vessels. This might lead to heart attack, or heart failure.
- Damage to the arteries leading to the brain and eyes, which can be weakened and more likely to burst over time with uncontrolled high blood pressure. This might lead to stroke or eye disease of the retina.
- Damage to the arteries of the kidneys, which may cause them to fail to remove enough waste and extra fluid from the blood. This extra blood volume would further increase blood pressure and cause a dangerous cycle of uncontrolled high blood pressure. This failure of the kidneys may require dialysis.
What Can You Do About High Blood Pressure?
Once hypertension develops, it typically does not go away. However, there are several treatment options for hypertension, and it can usually be managed. Start today by following a healthy lifestyle and taking any blood pressure medications your doctor prescribes.