Many diseases come with warning signs, which come in handy if you know what to look for. For example, spotting the symptoms of diabetes, heart disease, or cancer can help you detect it quickly and treat it early before it progresses too far.
But high blood pressure (HPB), also known as hypertension, doesn’t extend the same courtesy. Instead, it sneaks up on most people without a sign or symptom, catching its victims off guard. Its stealthy appearance earned it the nickname “silent killer,” and if you ignore it, that’s what it can do.
That’s why we check your blood pressure every time you see us at Premier Primary Care in Union City, Tennessee. Dr. James Batey and our team know that even healthy-looking people can harbor high blood pressure without a clue about the severity of their condition.
Here, we take a closer look at hypertension and offer some potentially life-saving information.
A word about blood pressure
Every time your heart beats, it pumps blood through your arteries. Ideally, it creates a rhythmic, gentle momentum of blood flow. But certain circumstances can cause your blood to rush through your arteries with force that can damage them and put you at risk for some pretty serious health conditions.
Unfortunately, you can’t usually tell when your blood pressure goes up, so your body suffers in silence until something gives way. Regular blood pressure checks keep you in the know so you can make adjustments if you ever notice your numbers climbing.
How we measure your blood pressure
You’ve probably had your blood pressure measured at least once in your life, maybe many times, so you’re familiar with the fabric cuff that wraps around your upper arm and tightens as the blood pressure device — technically called a sphygmomanometer — pumps air into it. That squeezing action temporarily cuts off your circulation, then the cuff gradually deflates, and the blood flows again.
In your reading, the point at which blood begins to flow (although still slightly compressed) provides the systolic, or first number, and lets us know the pressure in your arteries when your heartbeats. The point at which your blood flows freely and completely unrestricted provides the diastolic, or second number in your reading, which lets us know the pressure in your arteries in between heartbeats.
Every time you get your blood pressure checked, you’ll hear both numbers as systolic over diastolic, or for example, 130 over 90.
How high is too high?
When it comes to blood pressure, everyone wants to have a positive reading. The American Heart Association considers a normal healthy pressure to be 120/80 or lower. Here’s how it breaks down.
- Normal: less than 120 systolic and less than 80 diastolic
- Elevated: 120-129 systolic and less than 80 diastolic
- Stage 1 HBP: 130-139 systolic or 80-89 diastolic
- Stage 2 HBP: 140 or higher systolic or 90 or higher diastolic
- Hypertensive crisis: Higher than 180 systolic or higher than 120 diastolic
If your numbers fall into any category other than normal, it’s time to make some changes. Here’s how you and Premier Primary Care can team up to lower your blood pressure.
Help and hope for high blood pressure
Finding out you have high blood pressure is bad news because it puts you at risk for stroke and heart attacks. But the good news is that many of the factors that contribute to hypertension are 100% controllable.
If your blood pressure is elevated or in stage 1 of hypertension, you can turn your numbers around by addressing some lifestyle issues that exacerbate the problem. If you’re overweight, losing a few pounds can bring your blood pressure down. If you smoke, then quitting is key to lowering your numbers.
Regular exercise that incorporates at least 30 minutes of elevated heart rate no fewer than five days a week is arguably one of the most important things you need to do when you have a hypertension diagnosis.
Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet and avoiding tobacco, caffeine, sodium, and alcohol are also recommended.
If you’re in stage 2 or worse, you may need medication to manage your blood pressure. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be taking it for life, though. If you make changes to your diet, get plenty of exercise, and maintain a healthy weight, you may be able to ditch your meds and carry on as normal.
To find out if you have high blood pressure, call our friendly staff to set up an appointment, and don’t let the silent killer sneak up on you.