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Could You Be Among the Millions of Americans Who Have Hypertension and Don't Know It?

It’s only fitting that every doctor visit begins with a routine blood pressure reading. Sliding your arm into a blood pressure cuff at the start of an annual wellness appointment or sick visit is so routine that you may not give it much thought, especially if your measurement has always fallen somewhere within the normal range.

While it may seem mundane or even incidental, having your blood pressure measured on a regular basis is one of the most important things you can do to protect your long-term health. Here’s why: Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is exceedingly common — and when left untreated, it’s extremely dangerous.

It’s also remarkably insidious in that it doesn’t cause any perceptible symptoms. In fact, you can live with high blood pressure for years without knowing it. Millions of adults with undiagnosed hypertension feel perfectly fine and lead normal, active lives as the disease quietly undermines their health.

It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Having regular blood pressure screenings can help you catch the problem early so you can get it under control before it impacts your health. Here’s what you need to know.

Blood pressure 101

The term “blood pressure” refers to the amount of force your blood exerts against the walls of your arteries, both when your heart beats and when it rests between beats.

Blood pressure is at its peak when your heart beats because that’s when it actively pushes blood through your arteries. This is known as systolic pressure, which is the first (or top) number in a blood pressure reading.

When your heart rests between beats, your blood pressure drops considerably. This is known as diastolic pressure, which is the second (or bottom) number in a blood pressure reading.

A blood pressure measurement that falls below 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) is considered normal, or healthy. High blood pressure develops when an underlying condition or set of factors causes your blood flow to increase the amount of force it exerts against the walls of your arteries.

Stage 1 hypertension occurs when your systolic pressure consistently reaches 130-139 mm Hg, or when your diastolic pressure consistently falls between 80-89 mm Hg. Stage 2 hypertension is defined as having a blood pressure reading that’s consistently 140/90 mm Hg or higher.

The silent killer

As one of the most common chronic diseases in the United States today, hypertension affects some 75 million Americans, or 1 in 3 adults. What’s more, half of all adults who don’t yet have high blood pressure do have elevated blood pressure, which is called prehypertension.

Living with chronically high blood pressure puts your health at serious risk in more ways than one. When left untreated for too long, uncontrolled hypertension can cause major damage to your circulatory system, increasing your risk of heart disease, kidney disease, peripheral artery disease, and a variety of other serious health problems.

It can also drastically increase your risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

Health experts have called hypertension “the silent killer” for years because of the fact that the disease has no noticeable signs or symptoms, and having regular blood pressure checks is the only way to find out if you have it.  

Because hypertension doesn’t discriminate based on age, gender, health status, or fitness level, it’s important for older children, adolescents, and adults of all ages to undergo routine blood pressure screenings. More frequent blood pressure screenings may be recommended if you’re middle-aged or older, overweight, or have a family history of hypertension.

An ounce of prevention

Let’s face it — most adults develop high blood pressure at some point in their lives, and catching the disease as early as possible is the best way to limit its impacts and avoid long-term damage. That’s why, when it comes to controlling hypertension or preventing its progression, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Whether you have certain risk factors that increase your chances of developing hypertension, or a recent screening revealed that your blood pressure levels are already slightly elevated, there are steps you can take to mitigate your risk and maintain optimal health.   

Primary hypertension, or the kind that typically develops with age, usually responds well to specific lifestyle changes like eating a heart-healthy, low-sodium diet, staying physically active, losing excess body weight, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, and managing stress levels.

When lifestyle interventions don’t work quickly enough, or if your blood pressure is particularly high, the right medication can help you reduce your levels more efficiently and effectively. If you’d like to learn how you can prevent hypertension or keep it under control, we can help. Call our office in Plano, Texas, to schedule your next blood pressure screening, or use the easy online tool to schedule an appointment with Dr. Perijoc.    

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