People who are not obese, don’t smoke, use little salt and have a family history free of hypertension don’t need to worry about high blood pressure, right? Wrong. According to syndicated radio host Dr.Joy Browne and cardiologist Dr. James Rippe, too many people, women in particular, feel that they don’t need to check their blood pressure regularly, because they have been told that their blood pressure is O.K. in the past. These two say that even the active and young should stay concerned about high blood pressure.
Women are usually more concerned with diseases such as breast cancer than hypertension, but hypertension is a condition which may only have a deadly symptom such as a stroke or heart attack. About 1 in 3 in the U.S., a whopping 73 million adults, have hypertension.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claim that normal blood pressure is under 120 over 80 for men and women. Readings such as 120 to 139 over 80 to 89 used to be labeled as high normal. Newer guidelines now consider these readings as pre-hypertension. Some people with these readings can play it safe by checking their blood pressure regularly and getting healthier with diet and exercise. If numbers are greater than 140 over 90, medication is almost always necessary.
So what exactly is blood pressure? It is the force of blood against the artery walls. The systolic number is the first or top number. It stands for the pressure when the heart contracts. The diastolic number is the second or bottom number that stands for the pressure when the heart rests between beats.
During the day, blood pressure goes up and down. It is considered hypertension when it stays high for too long. Having high blood pressure, usually 140/90 or more, may often not be felt until it is too late. Many people with hypertension may feel fine. Heart attack, stroke or kidney failure may be the result if it is left untreated.
Just because you have a history of high blood pressure doesn’t mean you are safe. Dr. James Rippe says that “if you have normal blood pressure at 55, you still have a greater than 90 percent chance of having high blood pressure before you die because it’s age-related.” That is why regular screening is very important.
Some people think that if you do get on medicine for hypertension and it does not work well, you are stuck. Not true, according to Dr. Rippe. He suggests starting a dialogue with your doctor. He said “you don’t have to accept side effects.”
There are things you can do to prevent future problems with hypertension. First of all, get your blood pressure checked by a doctor, because monitors in public places such as the grocery store may not always be accurate. Avoid smoking and drink alcohol in moderation, although a glass of red wine daily has been known to be good for the heart. Of course, we all know that more exercise is usually a plus, but consult with your doctor first about how to get started if you have been sedentary for awhile. Because process food usually contains a lot of salt and calories, cook your own meals when you can, and don’t add salt while you’re cooking. It is also helpful to not have a salt shaker on the table. You can get more potassium by eating more fruits and vegetables.
Anyone can get high blood pressure, but there are three categories of people who are most likely to acquire it. These are African Americans, overweight people and adults over age 55.