High blood pressure is a common medical condition that affects half of the American population — an estimated 116 million adults. Although the sheer numbers may be surprising, the astounding fact is that about one-third of them don’t even know it. Their first hint of a problem may come when they have a stroke or a heart attack.
But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Sabeen Ahmed, MD, our board-certified internal medicine physician at Cardio Metabolic Institute. May is High Blood Pressure Education Month, so Dr. Ahmed shares her tips on knowing if you’re at risk for developing high blood pressure.
Why healthy blood pressure matters
During a lifetime, people have their blood pressure checked hundreds of times, but have you ever thought about what blood pressure actually is or why having a healthy blood pressure matters in the first place? It all comes down to your body’s need for nutrient-rich oxygenated blood.
Every organ, tissue, and cell relies on the nutrients in blood in order to perform its role in the healthy operation of your body. The way it works is a sufficient force or pressure within your blood vessels keeps blood moving from the heart to the lungs where it gets oxygen. From there, sufficient pressure is needed to deliver oxygenated blood through arteries to the rest of your body.
When the force on the walls of your veins or arteries is excessive, this condition is known as high blood pressure or hypertension. If left untreated, high blood pressure makes your heart work harder to do its job and also may damage, narrow, or block blood vessels, causing heart disease, a heart attack, or a stroke.
Take a personal assessment
While high blood pressure can be life-threatening, keep in mind that there are many things you can take to mitigate its potentially dangerous complications. The best first step is to take a personal assessment of the risk factors for developing high blood pressure.
Hypertension runs in your family
Like many other medical conditions, high blood pressure tends to be hereditary. If you don’t know your family medical history, it’s never too late to learn. Your risk of developing hypertension increases if one or more of your parents or siblings develop it before age 60.
Eating an unhealthy diet
Lifestyle factors have a great impact on developing high blood pressure. If your diet is rich in processed fried, fatty, or salty foods you could be well on your way to developing high blood pressure.
Fortunately, you can mitigate your risk by eating balanced meals with lots of vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. And while you’re at it, hide your salt shaker.
Like eating an unhealthy diet, inactivity is another lifestyle factor that works against having a healthy blood pressure. No one is asking you to run a marathon or even to join a gym. Simple things like taking a short walk every day can help as can dancing, swimming, or doing household chores like mowing the lawn.
Commit to getting up off the couch and being active. Your blood pressure will thank you.
Being overweight or obese
Not surprising if you’re overweight or obese, your risk of developing high blood pressure increases. Carrying extra weight taxes your heart, making it work much harder than it should have to in order to pump blood. This process, in turn, raises your blood pressure.
If you’re diabetic you are twice as likely to suffer from hypertension than the general population. Unfortunately, diabetes and high blood pressure may provide the perfect storm for potentially life-threatening complications.
For instance, patients suffering from hypertension and diabetes are four times as likely to also develop heart disease than patients who don’t have either condition.
Do you know your numbers?
If you’re concerned about hypertension, or it’s been awhile since you’ve had your blood pressure checked, schedule an evaluation with Dr. Ahmed at Cardio Metabolic Institute. Contact us by calling the location near you — in Edison, Somerset, or Monroe Township, New Jersey — or book online via this website today.