High blood pressure affects roughly one in three American adults. It may affect millions of Americans, but it isn’t something to take lightly. Also known as hypertension, it comes with some serious risks for both the heart and brain. There is no easy way to catch when you have high blood pressure, so it’s up to you to monitor it — or see your doctor yearly — to make sure you’re in good health.
Get your blood pressure checked regularly. | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages
Hypertension is known as a ‘silent killer’
One big problem with hypertension, aside from what it can do to you, is that it almost never shows symptoms. The American Heart Association refers to it as the “silent killer” for just that reason: It shows no symptoms, then suddenly strikes in the form of a stroke or heart attack. High blood pressure may be affecting you, but you will almost never know it unless you actively have your blood pressure checked.
When you have hypertension, your blood cells have a harder time passing through your arteries and getting to other parts of the body. To keep up with the difficulty, your artery walls will thicken in an effort to maintain proper blood flow. But if the artery walls thicken too much, they cause a blockage. This blockage, depending on where it is, can lead to either a stroke or a heart attack. If you’re older, you may also wind up with vascular dementia. This occurs when blood flow to the brain is cut off, causing blood cells to die. It is the only preventable form of dementia.
There is some evidence of symptoms, but don’t count on them to appear
In most cases, high blood pressure won’t ever present symptoms until it puts you in a medical crisis (such as a stroke or heart attack). However, according to the American Heart Association, there is some evidence of symptoms, such as blood spots in the eyes or facial flushing. But there is typically another underlying cause for these symptoms, which may circle back to high blood pressure, but don’t consider these frequent warning signs of the problem.
Purchase an at-home blood pressure monitor to keep track of your blood pressure
The best way to catch high blood pressure isn’t through searching for symptoms; it’s through proactively keeping your blood pressure in check. Get an annual physical — depending on your insurance, it’s probably free. Your doctor will do an electrocardiogram as well as a blood pressure check, which highlights any major heart problems. You can also purchase an at-home blood pressure monitor. It’s a battery powered device that is good to have on hand if you find out you do have hypertension.
Diet and exercise are the best ways to keep your blood pressure at a normal level
If you’re concerned about high blood pressure, but it’s normal for now, make sure to incorporate fruits and vegetables into your diet and get plenty of exercise. Together, these things will keep your blood pressure stable, and you’ll likely never have to worry about hypertension. Even if your blood pressure is a bit high, a good diet and 30 minutes of exercise each day can keep it normal. If your blood pressure is too high, your doctor will likely put you on blood pressure medication. He or she will still recommend that you eat well and work out, but the medication will help keep your hypertension at bay.
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