What is High Blood Pressure and How Does it Affect Me?

What is blood pressure? Well, it is just like it sounds, it is the pressure or force of the blood against the artery walls. The force of the blood will fluctuate throughout the day and so will the pressure against the artery wall. The problem becomes dangerous when the pressure goes up and does not come back down. When it stays elevated over time, the individual is said to have hypertension (commonly referred to as high blood pressure).

The question on everyone’s mind when it comes to hypertension is “What causes it?” The answer is generally there is no one specific cause and in some cases, it is never known. In others, it may be a combination of several health problems, or unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle, which may cause the arteries to narrow, there a larger volume of blood to flow through the arteries, and/or cause the heart to beat harder and faster than normal. All these situations have the potential to add more force as the flood flows through the artery increasing the pressure against the artery walls. However, the actual reason may never be known which is why health care professionals stress frequent blood pressure testing. The idea is to prevent hypertension when it can be prevented and to control it when the pressure has reached a potentially dangerous level. The diagnosis of hypertension is not to be taken lightly since once an individual is officially diagnosed with hypertension, that diagnosis will be on their medical records permanently. Statistics show that at least one of three Americans suffer from high blood pressure

Unfortunately, many individuals believe they know when their blood pressure is elevated and not only is this wrong, but it could be deadly. Hypertension is often called the Silent Killer and that is because generally there are no signs or symptoms that will point to hypertension. In order to know if your blood pressure is high, you must take a blood pressure test. The testing can be done by a health care professional, or you can test it at home or use public areas like a pharmacy or even some grocery stores offer this service free to their customers. Check with your pharmacist about buying a monitor if you would like to own one. They can not only recommend a reliable one but also teach you how to use it properly

The African American population is more susceptible to developing high blood pressure than the white population and when they do, they will develop it earlier in life and with more severity. Hypertension in African Americans will produce more deaths as a result of strokes and kidney disease. Remember, it is NOT the high blood pressure that will kill, it is the disease produced by hypertension that will do the job.

Developing high blood pressure is not a part of healthy aging. Many people assume that as they get older, they will develop health problems and high blood pressure is one of them. Actually, that is not true even though 90% of middle-aged Americans will probably be diagnosed with hypertension sometime in their lifetime. The truth is, if an individual keeps track of their blood pressure on a regular basis, they stand an excellent chance of preventing high blood pressure in the first place.

Lifestyle changes, in many cases, can prevent or control hypertension. However, there may be times when the levels are dangerously high and the individual needs to be put on medication to control it quickly. When a situation like this happens, lifestyle changes can ultimately help lower the dosage of the drugs, or in many cases help lower the pressure enough to eliminate drugs altogether.

Knowing the risk factors for developing hypertension is the first logical step in preventing this health problem. After awareness comes to action, in other words, an individual must do something to change or eliminate the risks if possible. The following risks are associated with developing high blood pressure:

  1. Age.
  2. Race.
  3. Being overweight.
  4. The family history of high blood pressure.
  5. Pre-hypertension diagnosis (120/80-139/89 mmHg).

The second step in preventing hypertension deals with making healthy lifestyle changes:

  1. Healthy Diet. Eat more fruits and vegetables, low-fat/nonfat foods, eliminate or reduce salt/sodium, eat less red meat and more turkey, chicken, and fish.
  2. Physical Activity. Begin a walking program of 30 minutes per day, take part in sports like biking, swimming – anything to keep active and have fun.
  3. Moderate Drinking. Women: 1 drink or less per day. Men: 2 drinks or less per day.
  4. Quit Smoking.

Making lifestyle changes to prevent or control hypertension, can be a challenge for most people. It’s a challenge because people do not like any kind of change in their lives and generally give-up before they see any positive results even though they might have been highly motivated at the beginning.

The critical question is “What kind of life do you want to live?” The choices are spending time and money dealing with health problems or being consistent in making a healthy lifestyle and taking control of your life.