Imagine having a condition that could put you in great danger. It can wreak havoc on your health, but you don’t know when it will finally strike. It could be years from now. Even worse, for the majority of the time that you have it, it’s practically symptomless and silent. Chances are high you don’t even know you have it unless you happen to go to the doctor. Does that sound like every hypochondriac’s worst nightmare?
It may seem like the set-up to some thriller about a new disease, but what we’re talking about is high blood pressure or hypertension. High blood pressure is, unfortunately, very common. It’s believed that about 1 in 3 adults in the United States is living with hypertension. Only around half of those people have their condition under control. It’s important to understand what hypertension is, how it’s caused, and what the dangers are of living with it for years on end. Here is what you need to know about hypertension.
What is hypertension?
Our cardiovascular systems do a lot of work each and every day. While we may take it for granted, we have to take care of it. Our blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the arteries that carry our blood away from the heart and into the rest of our bodies. Normally, this pressure shouldn’t cause harm. However, when you have high blood pressure, the blood pumping too hard can actually cause damage to the arteries and the heart. Years of this can lead to significant health problems.
What causes hypertension?
Having high blood pressure is something that many, if not most, people will struggle with at one point or another during their lives. If it’s so common, how does it occur? Some people are genetically predisposed to having high blood pressure, similar to people who naturally have high cholesterol. However, this makes up a minority of cases. For most people, hypertension develops as a result of other conditions or lifestyle choices. While anyone can be at risk for developing hypertension, there are certainly people who are at a higher risk.
Who is at risk for hypertension?
A history of prehypertension (blood pressure consistently over 120/80, but under 140/90) greatly increases the risks of developing full hypertension as does diabetes. Beyond that, certain dietary habits or lifestyle choices are associated with developing hypertension as well. People who smoke tobacco, eat high sodium/low potassium diets, are sedentary, obese, or consume alcohol in excess are all at a greater risk of having high blood pressure. Combine a few of these risk factors and you can see why hypertension is such a common affliction. Many people have one or several of these risk factors.
The dangers of hypertension
What are the real implications of long term, uncontrolled hypertension? It’s one of the major risk factors for developing heart disease. Not only that, but your chances of having a heart attack or stroke also significantly go up. High blood pressure is a leading cause of strokes. While much of the focus is rightfully placed on what high blood pressure can do to your heart, it can affect other organ systems as well. For example, high blood pressure puts you at an increased risk of kidney damage and eventually renal failure if uncontrolled. It’s in your best interests to manage your blood pressure and get it under control as soon as possible to mitigate the risks.
Hypertension is certainly treatable. The key is getting diagnosed by regularly checking your blood pressure. Once that’s established, treatment options will be suggested based on your individual circumstances. For example, dietary changes will most likely be recommended. If you smoke, it’ll be recommended that you quit. Same thing if you drink alcohol in excess. Exercising more is also a great way to lower your blood pressure. If your blood pressure remains high even with these lifestyle changes, medication may be prescribed to help lower it more.
High blood pressure is one of the more serious conditions a person could be living with. While it may not present any symptoms, the long-term effect of years of high blood pressure brings an increased risk of developing heart disease. Hypertension isn’t something to take lightly. It’s a leading cause of heart attack and stroke. Because you can’t feel hypertension, it’s important to regularly get your blood pressure checked. You have the ability to reverse many of the risk factors for heart disease, but you need to act as soon as possible. If you haven’t had it checked lately or you’re due for your annual physical, book an appointment online with us today. The team at Danvers Family Doctors is dedicated to providing you with the care you need so you can lead a healthy life.