May is National High Blood Pressure Month!
Why do we care about blood pressure?
High blood pressure is a silent killer.
High blood pressure increases the risk of many health problems.
Unfortunately, unless extremely elevated, high blood pressure typically does not cause symptoms. We feel good and can imagine anything could be wrong, meanwhile our systems are stressed by the elevated blood pressure. Over time, when exposed to high blood pressure, changes to our heart muscle can lead to heart failure where the heart can not efficiently pump our blood. It can lead to arterial wall damage resulting in heart attacks and peripheral artery disease, can result in strokes and ruptured aneurysms, and it can contribute to kidney disease.
Identifying High Blood Pressure
The first step in controlling high blood pressure is to recognize high blood pressure. Checking your blood pressure regularly is the best way to do this. Looking at multiple readings will give you an idea about how well your blood pressure is controlled. Bringing at-home blood pressure readings to your medical provider is very helpful so that your need for treatment can be accurately assessed.
Just as a single normal reading does not mean you are always in the normal range, a single abnormal reading does not necessarily mean you have high blood pressure that needs treatment. By having multiple readings, we can begin to know if you have consistent exposure to high blood pressure and whether you would benefit from medications.
Treating High Blood Pressure
The first step in treatment is a healthy diet and exercise. This is true for many health conditions. A “DASH” diet is a healthy diet that specifically is good for lower blood pressure. This diet includes low salt, low saturated fats, and healthy vegetables. If you are overweight, even a small amount of weight loss often will improve your blood pressure. Exercise, even without weight loss, also has a positive effect on blood pressure.
Even with healthy lifestyle efforts, some people are just programmed to have high blood pressure. Unfortunately, this means they are also programmed to have ha igher risk for cardiovascular disease. To help reduce this risk, we have medications. Different medications work on various systems that impact blood pressure. Some of these medications have multiple effects and often other effects of the medications can be harnessed for added benefits.
For example, a blood pressure medication that also controls heart rate may be of benefit to both the high blood pressure as well as palpitations a patient is experiencing. Many people simply need the medication for blood pressure control alone and usually, a medication can be found that is effective without also causing adverse undesirable side effects.
Some people have blood pressure that is hard to control. In fact, many people require 2 or even 3 medications to adequately control their blood pressure. Sometimes there may be other health issues that need to be addressed in order to adequately control blood pressure. If your blood pressure has been elevated, it is important to see your provider so that you may get assistance in a small amount of treatment in the short term that can prevent much bigger problems and even death in the long term.
Sunshine can help!
Contact our office to ask a provider about your blood pressure and what you can do to promote a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.
Sunshine Community Health Center