High Blood Pressure Requires Medical Treatment
- High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a serious medical condition that requires medical treatment.
- Certain conditions make people at higher risk for developing high blood pressure.
- There are risk factors that you can control for better health.
- It is important to have your blood pressure checked regularly and understand your numbers.
- Your healthcare provider may prescribe medication to help control your blood pressure.
- Uncontrolled hypertension can cause severe complications that may lead to disability or death.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is called the “silent killer” because most people who have high blood pressure do not know it. You may not have any symptoms. That is why it is important to know your blood pressure numbers. The only way to know your numbers is to have your blood pressure checked. Then, you need to understand what those numbers mean1.
Your blood pressure is recorded as two numbers, i.e. 118/70:
Systolic blood pressure (the first number) – indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when the heart beats.
Diastolic blood pressure (the second number) – indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is resting between beats.
The American Heart Association, describes the stages of high blood pressure as:
Normal blood pressure: below 120/80
Elevated blood pressure: systolic between 120-129 and diastolic less than 80. People with elevated blood pressure will likely develop hypertension if they do not do something to control it.
Stage 1 hypertension: systolic ranging from 130-139 and diastolic between 80-89.
Stage 2 hypertension: more severe with systolic 140 or higher or a diastolic of 90 or more.
Hypertensive crisis: a blood pressure of over 180/120 requires urgent medical attention. If you get this result at home, wait for 5 minutes, and recheck it. If it is still this high, call your healthcare provider and report your elevated readings. If you also experience chest pain, vision problems, numbness, weakness, or trouble breathing, call 911. You are at risk for a stroke or heart attack.
What causes high blood pressure?
It is usually hard to pinpoint the exact cause of high blood pressure because it develops over a long period of time. However, there are risk factors that make it more likely that you will develop hypertension2.
High Blood Pressure Risk Factors
There are two types of risk factors for developing high blood pressure. One type of risk factor is related to who you are. These are things you cannot change (unmodifiable). The other type of risk factor is related to things you can change.
Unmodifiable Risk Factors
Unmodifiable risk factors are things that you cannot change. These are:
- Age – your risk increases as you age.
- Race – high blood pressure is more common in African Americans.
- Family history – high blood pressure runs in families.
- Chronic illnesses – such as kidney disease and diabetes can increase blood pressure.
Controllable (modifiable) Risk Factors
There are risk factors for high blood pressure that you can control for better health. These are things that you can focus on to make improvements to your health and lower your blood pressure.
Controllable risk factors include being overweight, lack of physical activity, smoking or chewing tobacco, too much salt (sodium) in your diet, drinking too much alcohol, and stress.
What Can I Do If I Am At Risk?
You can decrease your risk for high blood pressure by making changes to your lifestyle.
If you are overweight or obese, you are more likely to have high blood pressure. Making changes to your diet can help you lose weight4.
Studies showed that the DASH Eating Plan, aka DASH Diet can lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol3.
If you are not physically active start taking short walks every day. Talk to your healthcare provider about other ways to increase your daily physical activity.
If you smoke or use chewing tobacco talk to your healthcare provider or get resources here to quit https://smokefree.gov/. If you don’t use tobacco, don’t start.
If there is too much salt in your diet learn to use less salt1.Start by reading nutrition labels to find the sodium content in the foods you buy and select those with lower amounts.
If you drink too much alcohol – try to reduce your alcohol intake to a moderate level.
Drinking more than a moderate amount of alcohol can cause many health problems including dramatic increases in blood pressure1. Try to limit your daily alcohol intake to one drink for women or two drinks for men.
The Mayo Clinic states that moderate alcohol use equals one drink daily for women and 2 drinks daily for men. One drink = one 12 oz. beer, 5 oz. wine, or 1.5 oz. of hard liquor.
If you feel stressed– try lowering your stress level by practicing relaxation techniques throughout the day (like deep breathing, yoga poses, meditation, or prayer). Learn more stress management tips.
What If Lifestyle Changes Are Not Enough?
Your healthcare provider might prescribe medications (sometimes 2 or more) to help control your hypertension. There are several types of medications and it might take time for you and your healthcare provider to find the best combination.
It is important to keep all your appointments with your healthcare provider. Keep track of your blood pressure between healthcare provider visits and report the readings5. You can check your blood pressure at home, at your pharmacy, or even some grocery stores.
Over sixty-six million adults (1 in every 3 people) in the United States have hypertension (high blood pressure)5. Of those, over 50% have uncontrolled hypertension.
Uncontrolled hypertension is high blood pressure that is not treated and stays high over a long time.
Uncontrolled hypertension is associated with heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, chronic kidney disease and death.
High blood pressure contributes to nearly 1,000 deaths per day in the United States5.
Don’t be a victim of the “silent killer.” Know which risk factors you have and work to improve the controllable risks. Have your blood pressure checked regularly. See your healthcare provider and follow their recommendations.
- The Facts About High Blood Pressure. Updated November 30, 2017.
- High blood pressure (hypertension). Updated January 16, 2021.
- NIH-supported DASH diet tops rankings for “heart-healthy” and “healthy eating.” January 24, 2021.
- Managing Weight to Control High Blood Pressure. Last reviewed October 31, 2016.
- Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. (2012). Vital Signs: Awareness and Treatment of Uncontrolled Hypertension Among Adults – United States, 2003-2010. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 61(35), 703-709. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/index.html