Treating High Blood Pressure
There are many illnesses and diseases that we can’t prevent or take control of – but high blood pressure is not one of them. However, even though it’s preventable, one in four American adults has high blood pressure.
High blood pressure, often referred to as hypertension, occurs when the force of your blood against artery walls is high enough that it may lead to health problems.
“Cardiovascular disease and stroke are the major events that happen with high blood pressure that is not controlled,” said Dr. Warren Matthews, chairman of the Department of Family Medicine at Abington Memorial Hospital.
With high blood pressure, the excess pressure on the artery walls can damage blood vessels, as well as your organs. The higher your blood pressure and the longer it’s uncontrolled, the greater the damage it causes.
“It causes problems with circulation to the brain, to the kidneys and to the heart muscle as well. High blood pressure causes damage to the walls of the arteries, to the vessels, it put patients at higher risk of stroke and aneurisms,” Dr. Matthews said.
A Silent Killer
As if the health conditions hypertension can cause aren’t scary enough, it becomes even more alarming that there often aren’t warning signs or symptoms.
“It really is a silent killer. You cannot tell if your blood pressure is high and many people have undetected high blood pressure,” he said.
Because of that, it’s crucial to schedule routine visits to your doctor, where your blood pressure can be checked. When you do have your blood pressure checked, Dr. Matthews recommends that you have it checked in both arms.
“The artery that we're measuring isn’t the same in both arms and you can get some difference in the reading from one to the other. It is wise to do that in both arms, not necessarily at every visit, but you want to make sure the pulse is brisk and strong in both arms equally,” he said.
If your doctor does detect that you have high blood pressure, there might not be one exact cause to pinpoint it on. That’s because the exact cause of high blood pressure isn’t known. But there are several factors that play a significant role in the development of hypertension, including:
- Being overweight or obese
- Consuming too much salt
- Lacking physical activity
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Genetics and family history
Some people believe that those with high blood pressure are tense, nervous, or hyperactive, leading to the development of hypertension – but that’s just not the case. High blood pressure has nothing to do with personality traits. A calm, relaxed person can still have high blood pressure.
When it comes to treating hypertension, there’s a whole host of lifestyle changes that can dramatically lower your blood pressure, and many of them are related to some of the conditions associated with causing the prognosis.
First, if you’re overweight, Dr. Matthews recommended getting closer to your ideal body weight. He also said good aerobic exercise on a regular basis or increasing your exercise regimen can result in the lowering of your blood pressure. You should also stop smoking and limit your salt intake.
“Salt is the major food agent that supports the development of high blood pressure in people who are susceptible to it,” Dr. Matthews said.
If lifestyle modifications alone don’t do enough to lower your blood pressure, doctors will sometimes prescribe medications. In some patients, the lifestyle modifications are enough to treat their hypertension, but if they don’t, doctors often combine those modifications with medication.
“What we like to do is minimize the medication that's needed. It's estimated that 10 to 20 percent of people that have started medication, if they can make and maintain appropriate lifestyle changes, they can be backed off of the medication,” he explained.
“The largest number of deaths in our society come from cardiovascular disease, which is caused by things we can control.”
Attend a Screening
Take the necessary steps to monitor your blood pressure and track your progress if you alter your lifestyle to control hypertension. Attend a free blood pressure screening at Abington Memorial Hospital, Lansdale Hospital or Abington Health Center - Warminster.