Facts About Hypertension
By Barbara Floria
A healthy blood pressure level can reduce your risk for many serious diseases and increase your longevity.
If you have high blood pressure, your heart has to work harder to pump blood through the arteries to your organs. This increased pressure poses the potential for serious health risks, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Familiarizing yourself with the following fictions and facts about this dangerous and common condition can help you learn if you have it and take steps to control it.
Fiction: Even though my blood pressure is chronically high, there's nothing serious for me to worry about.
Fact: Chronic high blood pressure increases the risk for heart disease and stroke. It also can lead to other conditions, such as congestive heart failure, kidney damage, dementia, and blindness. On average, one American dies every two minutes from complications of high blood pressure.
Fiction: My blood pressure is pretty good; being a few points over doesn't matter.
Fact: Health guidelines state that even slight elevations in blood pressure significantly increase the risk for stroke or heart attack. It doesn't take much of a sustained increase in blood pressure to raise your chance of developing problems with your heart, blood vessels, brain, or kidneys. Optimal blood pressure for most adults is less than 120/80 mm Hg.
Fiction: If I had high blood pressure, I would feel it.
Fact: Most people with high blood pressure have no symptoms, so they don't know they have it. That's why it's important to have your blood pressure checked at least once a year by your health care provider.
Fiction: High blood pressure can't be controlled.
Fact: Hypertension is easily detected and usually controllable. Making healthy lifestyle changes and taking medication as prescribed can control it.
Talk to your health care provider to find out how you can make these helpful lifestyle changes:
Reduce saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet. A diet full of fat and cholesterol can lead to diabetes and obesity, which are independent risk factors for high blood pressure.
Exercise regularly. Increasing your physical activity strengthens your heart, reduces resting blood pressure, and helps you lose extra pounds.
Reduce salt intake. Sodium, a component of salt, can make the body retain fluid. This increases your overall blood volume, which increases the pressure.
Quit smoking. Smoking increases blood pressure, damages arteries, and puts you at greater risk for cancer, heart attack, and stroke.
Limit alcohol intake. Excessive alcohol intake can raise blood pressure and make it more difficult to control your blood pressure with medications.
Fiction: Because my high blood pressure is under control, I can stop taking my medication, eating a healthy diet, and exercising.
Fact: High blood pressure is a lifelong condition. Chances are it's at a healthy level because you've been taking your medication and making healthy choices. If your doctor prescribed a medication for high blood pressure, you should continue to take the medication as directed.
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