During your lifetime, your blood pressure will be taken many times. Nearly every health care provider from your primary care doctor to your dentist typically starts off an appointment with a blood pressure check. You can often find blood pressure kiosks in your local shopping mall, drug store, and even your grocery store, or purchase a blood pressure cuff to monitor your blood pressure from home.
So is all this attention to knowing what your blood pressure is really necessary? Absolutely, says the expert team of medical professionals at Generations Family Practice in Cary, North Carolina. Knowing your numbers can literally save your life.
Healthy blood pressure and your overall health
In order for us to understand the dangers of high blood pressure (hypertension), let’s first take a step back and look at the role healthy blood pressure plays in our overall health.
Every part of our body — cells, tissues, and organs — depends on getting a steady supply of nutrient-rich blood to function properly and optimally. The rub is that the blood has to do a lot of traveling to get to its destination.
The key component to this important journey is sufficient pressure or force. Specifically, there needs to be a sufficient force within an artery to first pump blood from the heart to the lungs where it gets oxygen, followed by sufficient force to transport the oxygenated blood through arteries to the rest of the body.
Blood pressure explained
You probably know that blood pressure is recorded as two numbers, but have you ever wondered what blood pressure really is? The key to understanding the concept of blood pressure focuses on one important concept — applying sufficient pressure within arteries without taxing the heart.
The first number in a blood pressure reading is called systolic blood pressure and measures the force your blood is pressing against artery walls when your heart contracts.
Diastolic blood pressure is the second number, which measures the pressure against your artery walls when your heart is resting between contractions.
A normal blood pressure reading is less than 120 systolic and less than 80 diastolic. When your numbers reach a reading of 130 or higher of systolic pressure or 80 or higher of diastolic pressure, your numbers indicate high blood pressure. At this juncture, the pressure on the walls of your arteries is excessive and may ultimately result in damaged or blocked blood vessels, which may lead to heart disease, a heart attack, or stroke.
High blood pressure may have no obvious symptoms
About 116 million Americans suffer from high blood pressure — that’s nearly half of the adult population. Despite its prevalence and far-reaching health implications, about one in three people who have high blood pressure don’t even know it, earning high blood pressure the dubious nickname “the silent killer.” Why? Unlike most other medical conditions, high blood pressure often has no outward symptoms.
People are literally going about their daily routines while high blood pressure is doing untold damage to their bodies. Unfortunately, some people don’t get a diagnosis until they go to their provider about a secondary associated condition such as headaches, leg weakness, or stubborn leg sores that won’t heal.
This puts you at a higher risk for serious medical conditions
Since countless people are unknowingly living with high blood pressure, the case for being proactive and understanding the status of your blood pressure becomes increasingly important.
Did you know that high blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke and heart disease? Every day that you go without knowing where your blood pressure stands may be a day closer to damaged veins and narrow or blocked arteries and blood vessels with catastrophic consequences. Each year, stroke and heart disease take the lives of more Americans than all types of respiratory diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, and asthma, as well as cancer combined.
But that’s not where the dangers of high blood pressure end. Untreated high blood pressure can ultimately result in vision loss, and kidney disease, and even put you at a higher risk for vascular dementia than the general population. High blood pressure also puts you at a higher risk of developing diabetes. And if you already have diabetes, high blood pressure can intensify the many health complications often associated with it.
Preventing and treating high blood pressure
The good news is that high blood pressure can be prevented by committing to a healthy lifestyle, which includes eating healthy, getting adequate exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking. And don’t forget to schedule annual physicals to make sure you head off small health issues like elevated blood pressure before they become big problems.
Here at Generations Family Practice, our team of compassionate and highly trained family medicine and primary care providers create conservative, holistic treatment plans to help patients manage high blood pressure. Treatment plans include annual physicals, smoking cessation programs, medically supervised weight loss programs, and blood pressure prescription drugs, as needed.
If you have concerns about your blood pressure, book a consultation today. We’ll help assess your risks for high blood pressure and partner with you to maintain your optimal health. Call or book an appointment online today.