Here’s a scary number: 70 million. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that’s the number of Americans who have high blood pressure, also called hypertension. Roughly 1 in every 3 people has it. Here is another frightening number: 360,000. That’s the number of deaths high blood pressure contributed to in 2013. Here’s what you should take from those figures: High blood pressure is common and it can be devastating.
Excuses Could Cost You Your Life
As a family physician at Kelsey-Seybold, I see many patients who come in to the office for one ailment and during their visit we discover that they have high blood pressure. This is because high blood pressure doesn’t always come tethered to symptoms. Often, when patients find out they have high blood pressure, there is denial. Patients will wave off their high readings as a fluke:
- They were just in a rush to get here.
- They had to walk farther than normal for parking.
- They have “white coat syndrome,” meaning they’re nervous simply because they are at the doctor’s office, causing their blood pressure to be higher than normal.
If it’s the first instance in your medical history of having high blood pressure, we’ll likely watch it for a month and have you come back to determine if we need to take action. But if there’s a history of high blood pressure, either personal or with a family member, it’s much better to be safe than sorry.
High Blood Pressure May Not Have Anything to do With Physical Health
Another dangerous assumption many patients have is that they think their blood pressure is fine because they’re physically healthy. Blood pressure can be negatively affected by extra weight – this is absolutely true. It is also true that blood pressure may not have anything to do with weight or physical health. I have patients who are considered obese whose blood pressure is normal and I have patients who run five times a week who are on medication for high blood pressure. The only way to check and be certain is to have your Kelsey-Seybold physician monitor it, and trust them if they tell you it’s high and you need medication to maintain it.
Keep it in Check
Most frequently, blood pressure is kept under control with medication and often times it requires more than one medication to do this. So the simplest thing to do is take your medication every single day.
Other ways to maintain control of your blood pressure are through exercise and eating a healthy diet that is low in sodium.
Also, make sure to check your blood pressure – you can do this by purchasing a blood pressure cuff for home use. Just be sure you bring it with you to one of your office visits so your physician can make sure it is calibrated with theirs. The machines at the local grocery store or other retailer aren’t reliable because there’s no way of maintaining it or checking its accuracy.
The bottom line is that high blood pressure is a silent killer – you have to stay on top of it and take your doctor’s advice to keep it under control.
What questions do you have about high blood pressure?