Why You Should Pay Close Attention To Your Blood Pressure

Woman checking her blood pressure
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Nearly 70 million people in the United States have high blood pressure, but only about half of them have it under control, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That said, chances are, you or someone you know has high blood pressure. We recently caught up with Rajesh Shah, MD, cardiologist at AdventHealth, to learn why its so important to keep an eye on your blood pressure.

What are the factors that affect blood pressure?
Hypertension (or high blood pressure) is fairly complex. We characterize it as primary hypertension and secondary hypertension. Primary is due to environmental and genetic factors.

Primary hypertension tends to run in the family and it may be triggered by obesity, diet, environment, stress and sedentary lifestyle. You may be able to keep it under control by exercising, maintaining a healthy weight and limiting your salt intake.

Secondary hypertension, a less common form of the disease, results from specific conditions like kidney failure or a tumor. Sleep apnea may be a contributing factor. In this case, if you treat the underlying condition, its possible that the hypertension may be better controlled and improve over time.

What causes high blood pressure?
High blood pressure is defined as greater than or equal to 140 mm Hg systolic pressure over 90. It happens when your blood moves through your arteries at a higher pressure than normal.

What can you do to control it?
Its not possible to control all risk factors for high blood pressure, but there are certain things you can to do help prevent or control it.

There are really three things that come to mind. One is by changing your diet, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight. Two is by trying to adhere to the American Heart Association's guide for sodium salt restriction. The third is with medication. And if you have an anatomic or genetic cause like a tumor or narrowing of the kidneys, you may need surgery or a procedure to correct the underlying condition.

The CDC states if you reduce the average amount of salt or sodium intake from 3,400 milligrams to 2,300 milligrams per day that may reduce cases of high blood pressure by 11 million. (See this page for tips on reducing your salt intake: http://sodiumbreakup.heart.org/sodium-411/breaking-up-with-excess-sodium).

For a list of medications, visit: https://www.adventhealth.com/heart-and-vascular-care/general-cardiology

Why is it important to pay attention to your blood pressure numbers?
Its quite important. Were in a data-driven society, and having information on how your blood pressure is controlled helps us determine how to treat it. Those numbers help us determine whether to increase or decrease your medications in order to meet your body's needs.

If left uncontrolled, what conditions can high blood pressure lead to?
Believe it or not, there are almost 1,000 deaths each day where high blood pressure was a primary or contributing cause, according to the CDC.

High blood pressure can increase the chance of heart failure; blindness; strokes; vascular problems that can lead to potentially catastrophic problems. Additionally, uncontrolled hypertension may lead to kidney problems, which could then lead to dialysis.

Should you check your numbers at home, in addition to when you visit your doctor?
Yes, I would recommend that you check your numbers at home and again at the doctors office to make sure the numbers match up.

Blood pressure monitors are available at drug stores, and you don't need a prescription. Monitoring it at home can help you track your treatment, cut your health care costs and help with early diagnosis.

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