Per the CDC, nearly half of adults in the United States have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Many folks don’t even know they have hypertension until it develops into a more serious condition such as heart disease. By that point, it may have been negatively impacting the body for years.
If left undetected, there are many health risks associated with uncontrolled blood pressure. But there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of hypertension now and in the future.
What is a normal blood pressure reading?
Blood pressure is simply the force exerted against the walls of your arteries and major blood vessels by blood circulating throughout your body. Your blood pressure goes up and down throughout the day based on your activities and other factors such as stress.
A normal blood pressure reading is 120/80 or lower. According to the American Heart Association, hypertension can be defined as consistently having a reading of 130/80 or higher.
The more elevated your blood pressure levels, and the longer they’re high, the higher your risk is for long-term complications such as heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Risk factors for developing hypertension
High blood pressure is a struggle for many Americans and people across the world. Some individuals have a genetic predisposition to developing hypertension, yet others do not.
And while no single factor will result in hypertension, there are some things that make you more likely to develop it, such as:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Poor diet, including excessive salt intake
- Insulin resistance
Hypertension is sometimes called the silent killer, and that nickname alludes to why it’s important to be proactive and take action sooner rather than later. Early intervention is key to managing the condition and ensuring your continued good health.
Symptoms of Hypertension
The tricky part of hypertension is how it can go essentially symptom-free and undetected for years. So it’s important to get regular checkups with your primary care provider to have your blood pressure checked. And if you do notice symptoms, it’s critical not to ignore them.
Symptoms of hypertension may include:
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular heartbeats
- Vision changes
- Confusion and anxiety
- Chest pain
- Difficulty sleeping
Many of these symptoms can be indicative of other health issues as well, but you should be vigilant and take note of what your body is telling you. If you have concerns, that’s a good reason to schedule your annual checkup and if your provider recommends it, to measure your blood pressure regularly at home.
Long-term complications of hypertension
As we’ve mentioned above, many people have high blood pressure and don’t know it, the signs are misunderstood, and it develops slowly over time; it’s like the proverbial frog in a pot of water.
Over time, chronic hypertension can damage your heart, eyes, kidneys, brain, and blood vessels throughout your body if not addressed. Along with leaving you at a higher risk for heart attack, stroke, and other heart disease-related complications, hypertension can also make you more likely to develop a high-risk aneurysm, or vascular dementia that impairs your cognitive abilities.
Remote patient monitoring for hypertension
If your primary care provider has diagnosed you with hypertension, or if you have a family history of high blood pressure, you may be eligible for a monitor to measure your blood pressure at home. Ask your WWMG primary care provider or cardiologist about remote patient monitoring options.
Please note that at-home monitoring does not replace the need for regular checkups with your provider. A health professional is an important resource for receiving support and proactively taking care of your cardiovascular health.
When to seek help
Whether or not you have symptoms of high blood pressure, it’s important to take stock of your risk factors, personal and family health history, and your current health issues. Start monitoring your blood pressure on a regular basis and take preventive action before you think you “need” to, to minimize your risk of complications. Work with your primary care provider to establish a baseline, and monitor your blood pressure at least annually to track any concerning changes.
WWMG’s primary care providers are here to support you in all aspects of your health, including blood pressure and heart health. Request an appointment today at one of our seven family practice locations in Snohomish County. Taking a proactive approach can help you prevent hypertension from developing into a high-risk heart condition. Early intervention can save your life.