Don’t become a statistic…
- 74.5 million U.S. adults have been diagnosed with high blood pressure.
- About 1 out of 3 U.S. adults—31.3%—has high blood pressure, but because there are commonly no symptoms 1/3 of them don’t even know they have it.
- 90% of middle-aged Americans will develop high blood pressure during their lifetime.
-American Heart Association
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, means high pressure (tension) in the arteries. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attack, heart failure and kidney failure. The longer it is left untreated, the more serious its complications can become.
High blood pressure is known as the “silent killer” because it tends not to have any symptoms.
The good news is there are steps you can take to prevent and/or manage high blood pressure.
It is important to learn about steps to take to prevent high blood pressure. And, if you have high blood pressure, you can live a healthier, more active life by learning about your disease and treatments and by becoming an active participant in your care.
What is high blood pressure?
Blood pressure is a measure of how hard the blood pushes against the walls of your arteries as it moves through your body. It’s normal for blood pressure to go up and down throughout the day, but if it stays up over time, you have high blood pressure. Another name for high blood pressure is hypertension.
Measuring your blood pressure is quick and painless. A doctor or health professional wraps an inflatable cuff with a pressure gauge around your arm to squeeze the blood vessels. Then he or she listens to your pulse with a stethoscope while releasing air from the cuff and watching the gauge. The gauge measures blood pressure in millimeters of mercury, which is abbreviated as mmHg.
Your blood pressure consists of two numbers: systolic and diastolic. Someone with a systolic pressure of 120 and a diastolic pressure of 80 has a blood pressure of 120/80, or "120 over 80."
- The systolic number shows how hard the blood pushes when the heart is pumping.
- The diastolic number shows how hard the blood pushes between heartbeats, when the heart is relaxed and filling with blood.
Adults should have a blood pressure of less than 120/80. High blood pressure is 140/90 or higher.
Many people fall into the category in between, called pre-hypertension. People with prehypertension need to make lifestyle changes to bring the blood pressure down and help prevent high blood pressure.
|If your numbers are:||If your blood pressure is considered:||You should:|
|Less than 120/80 (ok)||Normal||Re-check every year|
|120/80 or higher (watch)||High (Pre-hypertension)||Make lifestyle changes (eating right; exercising more)
Re-check at least once a year
|140/90 or higher (fix)||Severe (Hypertension)||Have reading confirmed within two months
Make lifestyle changes and treat with medication
When blood pressure is high over a period of time, it starts to damage the blood vessels, heart and kidneys. Untreated, high blood pressure can damage the delicate lining of the blood vessels. After a blood vessel is damaged, fat and calcium can easily build up along the artery wall, forming a plaque. The blood vessel becomes narrowed and stiff (atherosclerosis), and blood flow through the blood vessel is reduced.
Over time, decreased blood flow to certain organs in the body can cause damage, leading to:
- Coronary artery disease, heart attack and abnormal heartbeat
- Heart failure
- Kidney (renal) failure
- Peripheral arterial disease
- Eye damage (retinopathy)
No specific cause is found in 95% of patients with high blood pressure. But there are a number of factors that can contribute to the risk of high blood pressure, such as genetics, being overweight, overuse of salt and even the natural aging process.
Your blood pressure also may rise if you are not very active, you don't eat enough potassium and calcium or you have a condition called insulin resistance.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Am I less active than I should be (active 30 minutes a day at least 5 days per week)?
- Am I overweight?
- Do I often eat salty foods or put salt on my food?
- So I feel stressful often?
- Do I smoke tobacco?
- Do I drink more than occasionally?
- Does an immediate family member have high blood pressure?
- Am I African American?
- Am I over age 35?
The more frequently you answer “yes” to these questions, the greater your odds of developing high blood pressure. Discuss these answers with your doctor or a RedBrick Health Coach.
High blood pressure is called the "silent killer" because it often has no warning signs or symptoms—many people don't realize they have it!
The only way to detect whether or not you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure measured by a doctor or health professional—it is quick and painless.
The only way to tell if you have high blood pressure is to have it checked.
Most people find out they have high blood pressure during a routine doctor visit. For your doctor to confirm that you have high blood pressure, your blood pressure must be at least 140/90 on three or more separate occasions. It is usually measured one to two weeks apart.
You may have to check your blood pressure at home if there is reason to think the readings in the doctor’s office aren't accurate. You may have what is called “white-coat hypertension,” which is blood pressure that goes up just because you're at the doctor’s office. Even routine activities, such as attending a meeting, can raise your blood pressure. So can commuting to work or smoking a cigarette.
Once diagnosed, high blood pressure can usually be managed through lifestyle changes and, when prescribed, medication. Treatment depends on how high your blood pressure is, whether you have other health problems (such as diabetes) and whether any organs have already been damaged. Your doctor also will consider how likely you are to develop other diseases, especially heart disease.
You can help lower your blood pressure by making healthy changes in your lifestyle. If those lifestyle changes don't work, you also may need to take medication prescribed by your doctor. Either way, there is no cure for high blood pressure; it is something you will need to control throughout your life.
- If you have pre-hypertension, your doctor will likely recommend lifestyle changes. These may include losing extra weight, exercising, limiting alcohol, cutting back on salt, quitting smoking, and eating a low-fat diet that includes more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods.
- If you have high blood pressurewithout any organ damage or other risk factors for heart disease, your doctor may recommend that you take medicine, in addition to making lifestyle changes.
- If you have high blood pressure and have some organ damage or other risk factors for heart disease, you may need to try various combinations of medicines, in addition to making big lifestyle changes.
Most people take more than one medication for high blood pressure. Work with your doctor to find the right medication or combination of medication that will cause the fewest side effects.
It can be hard to remember to take pills when you have no symptoms. But your blood pressure will go back up if you don't take your medicine. Make your medication schedule as simple as you can. Plan times to take them when you are doing other things, like eating a meal or getting ready for bed. Use a pill box so you don’t lose track of which days you have taken your medicine.
Whether you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure or are concerned because you have some of the risk factors of the disease, know that although there is no cure, high blood pressure is manageable.
Lifestyle changes you can make to help prevent high blood pressure include:
- Stay at a healthy weight or lose extra weight. Use less salt and eat fewer salty foods.
- Exercise regularly.
- Drink alcohol moderately. Limit alcohol to two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women and lighter-weight men.
- Follow the DASH eating plan (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). This diet is rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and is low in fat.
- Take medicines as prescribed.
- Avoid tobacco.
- Manage stress.
- Take the RedBrick Health online health assessment and have your blood pressure checked regularly.
- Attend the onsite DTE Energy Health Screenings, which include blood pressure checks. Look at the Onsite Health Screening Schedule to find out when a screening will be available at your location.
- If diagnosed with high blood pressure, call a RedBrick Health Coach to participate in the “Blood Pressure Management” telephone coaching program at: 866.261.7144.
|WebMD||Provides a wealth of information about high blood pressure. Includes helpful articles, videos and FAQs||www.webMD.com|
|American Heart Association||Provides brochures and information about support groups and community programs. AHA's website also has information on physical activity, diet and various heart-related conditions.||800.AHA.USA1 (800.242.8721)
|National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute||Offers and comprehensive guide to help you get your blood pressure under control.||www.nhlbi.nih.gov|