February is American Heart Month. You may notice people wearing red honoring this month. You may have heard about high blood pressure from your physician. If not, you may wonder why is it such a big deal. Keep reading to learn more about high blood pressure, and its cardiovascular effects.
What is High Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the force of blood against your arterial walls when your heart pumps. When blood pressure is too high, it forces the blood vessel walls to stretch, leading to scarring, tearing, weak spots and plaque build up, which makes the heart work harder.
High blood pressure is called the “Silent Killer” for a reason. Most people don’t know they have it and often there are no symptoms. It can cause a lot of harm when left unmanaged such as cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, heart failure, atrial fibrillation and kidney disease.
The good news is you can control your high blood pressure with lifestyle changes and medication when necessary.
Questions to help you assess your risk:
- What are my risk factors?
- What are my physical attributes and lifestyle habits that increase my risk for developing high blood pressure?
- How can I reduce my risk for developing or managing the disease?
- What are my numbers?
Common risk factors include:
- Family history: It tends to run in families.
- Age: The risk increase as people age.
- Gender: Men up to age 64 are more likely to develop high blood pressure than women. At 65 years or higher, women are more likely to develop high blood pressure.
- Race: African Americans are more likely to develop high blood pressure than other races in the U.S., often at an earlier age than it does in whites. It is also, often more severe.
- Being overweight or obese: Being overweight significantly raises your risk of developing high blood pressure as well as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
- Drinking alcohol: Heavy and regular alcohol consumption increases your blood pressure. Limit alcohol consumption for better cardiovascular health.
- Sleep apnea: Sleep apnea may increase a person’s risk for high blood pressure. Use your CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine if you have sleep apnea or see your doctor if you suspect you may have sleep apnea.
- Using tobacco: Smoking damages your blood vessels and temporarily increases your blood pressure when you do smoke.
Commit to lowering your blood pressure with these tips:
- Physical activity: Get moving! Being physically active is great for the heart, brain and circulatory system. Being sedentary increases your risk for developing high blood pressure.
- Nutrition: A healthy diet, one that contains lots of vegetables, fruit and is lower in sodium (salt), trans fats and sugar have a big impact on lowering high blood pressure.
- Stress: Unmanaged stress may increase blood pressure. Take steps to manage or decrease the stress in your life. Make time to relax, practice deep breathing, meditation or physical activity can help keep you calm.
We recommend that you talk to your physician about reducing your risk for high blood pressure, and understanding your options for managing high blood pressure if you’ve been diagnosed. This resource is not intended to render medical advice. Please contact your primary care physician should you have questions about your healthcare.