The following Q&A with Center for Health Discovery and Well Being Director Kenneth Brigham, MD, highlights why it is important to understand high blood pressure, also called hypertension. May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month.
Dr. Brigham says: If you don’t have high blood pressure right now, you can take steps to prevent it. Learning about your health profile, including your blood pressure numbers, can help you develop a plan to stay your healthiest. Lifestyle approaches can help you maintain normal blood pressure – such as eating healthy, being physically active, losing weight if you are overweight or obese, not smoking and coping with stress. Should you develop high blood pressure, the lifestyle suggestions described here are a good step in managing your condition. Your health team can work with you to determine your blood pressure reading and help you plan for your optimal health. This may include medications, and it is important to always take your prescribed dosage every day. Understanding your personal health profile is the first step in learning more about approaches that can help you restore, maintain and optimize your health.
What is hypertension and how does it relate to heart disease and stroke?
Hypertension, also called high blood pressure (HBP), is a serious condition that can lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure and other health problems if left unaddressed. Knowing your blood pressure numbers is important, because even if you’re feeling fine you may still have a blood pressure reading that signals a concern. A reading of 120/80 or lower is normal blood pressure, 140/90 or higher is high blood pressure, and between 120 and 139 for the top number, or between 80 and 89 for the bottom number is called prehypertension.
What is the health impact of high blood pressure in the United States?
In the United States, about 72 million people have HBP. This is about one in three adults. Stroke kills more than 137,000 people a year, which is about one of every 18 deaths. It’s the No. 3 cause of death behind diseases of the heart and cancer.
Who is at risk for high blood pressure?
HBP can affect anyone. Certain traits, conditions or behaviors are known to raise the risk for HBP. Blood pressure tends to rise with age. If you’re a male older than 45 or a female older than 55, your risk for HBP is higher. However, it occurs more often in African-American adults than in Caucasian or Hispanic American adults. African Americans, compared to other groups, tend to get HBP earlier in life and can have more severe HBP. Individuals at risk for HBP include those who are overweight or obese. Fewer adult women than men have HBP.
What causes high blood pressure?
A number of lifestyle habits can raise the possibility of developing HBP, including eating too much salt, drinking too much alcohol, not getting enough potassium in your diet, not getting enough exercise and smoking. A family history of HBP raises your risk for the condition. Long-lasting stress also can put you at risk for HBP.
How does diet affect a person’s blood pressure?
An eating plan should focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other foods that are heart healthy and lower in salt to help prevent or control HBP. A focus on foods low in fat and cholesterol is important, and consuming fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products, fish, poultry and nuts can be healthful.
What are some ways to prevent and control blood pressure?
HBP may be prevented with a healthy lifestyle, but once a person has HBP it can be controlled with lifestyle changes and medications. Most people who have HBP will need lifelong treatment. Sticking to your treatment plan can prevent or delay the problems linked to HBP and help you stay active and live longer. HBP medications can safely help most people control their blood pressures. The side effects, if any, are usually minor.
How is high blood pressure related to stroke?
Stroke is a disease that affects the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain. HBP can damage arteries throughout the body. Weakened arteries in the brain put you at much higher risk for stroke.
Who is at risk for having a stroke?
The more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to have a stroke. You can treat or control some risk factors, such as HBP and smoking. Other risk factors, such as age and gender, you can’t control. The major risk factors for stroke include HBP, smoking, diabetes, heart disease, brain aneurysms, age and gender (risk of stroke increases as you get older – at younger ages, men are more likely than women to have strokes), race and ethnicity (strokes occur more often in African American, Alaska Native and American Indian adults than in Caucasian, Hispanic or Asian American adults), and personal or family history of stroke.
What are the forms of stroke and how does it occur?
About 87 percent of strokes are called ischemic strokes. These are caused by narrowed or clogged blood vessels in the brain that cut off the blood flow to brain cells. Because HBP damages arteries throughout the body, it is critical to keep your blood pressure within acceptable ranges to protect your brain from this often disabling or fatal event. A second type of stroke makes up the other 13 percent of strokes and is called a hemorrhagic stroke. This type of stroke occurs when a blood vessel ruptures in or near the brain. When a blood vessel ruptures, it can bleed into the deep tissue in the brain or in the space between the brain and the skull. Chronic HBP or aging blood vessels are the main causes of this type of stroke.
What are the signs of stroke?
Signs that a person may be having a stroke include sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; and/or sudden, severe headache with no known cause.