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Hypertension: The Thief in the Night

Note: This article is over 60 days old, and may contain information that is out of date, or has been superseded by newer information.

Hypertension is like a thief who comes quietly in the night to steal your health.

It often has no symptoms and is easy to ignore. With a minimum of effort, you can detect and treat it before it becomes harmful. Think of blood pressure measurement as an early warning system.

According to the American Heart Association, Hypertension (aka high blood pressure) means your body’s blood is being pumped against too much pressure. This can be especially hard on the pump (your heart) and the small, delicate blood vessels in your brain, kidneys, and eyes. Left untreated, hypertension can lead to conditions such as a weakened heart, heart attack, kidney disease, need for dialysis, stroke, and blindness.

A normal adult blood pressure is less than 120 over 80. Blood pressure measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart alternately pumps (top number) and rests (bottom number) as it beats along. It should be measured in all adults at least once each year.

Causes and contributing factors of hypertension can include family history and other health conditions such as: being overweight, smoking, lack of exercise, drinking too much alcohol, stress, too much salt, and not eating enough vegetables and fruits.

Fortunately, there is treatment! For most people, treatment includes a combination of lifestyle factors and medications.

Lifestyle factors can include the right eating plan (such as the Dash diet and reducing salt), losing weight, quitting smoking, stress reduction, exercise, and limiting alcohol. Ask your doctor before starting any diet or exercise regimen.

Medications will need a doctor’s prescription. Work with your doctor to find the medication that is right for you. Stick with the medication, even though high blood pressure may cause no symptoms. A 2009 Italian study found that taking blood pressure medications as prescribed (called "adherence") is associated with a 38% decrease in risk for cardiovascular events, such as strokes and heart disease.

Another recent study by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists showed that the more prescriptions a person has, the less likely he or she is to take the medications properly. Discuss your situation with your doctor or pharmacist, especially if you are on multiple medications. Some prescriptions combine two or more medications in the same pill, reducing pill numbers and co-pays.

Don’t wait on symptoms to start thinking about your health. Have your blood pressure measured and pay attention to the result. Don’t let this silent thief into your good health.


What’s Your Number?

Note: This article is over 60 days old, and may contain information that is out of date, or has been superseded by newer information.

Do you know your numbers? Your blood pressure numbers, that is. If you don’t, find out by visiting your primary care physician. Keeping your blood pressure in normal ranges is one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy.

What Is Ideal—and Why? Your blood pressure ideally should be less than 130/80. High blood pressure puts stress on the blood vessels, which accelerates aging of the circulatory system and leads to an increased risk of kidney disease, stroke, and other circulatory problems. Also, the heart has to work harder to maintain the higher pressures and can ultimately wear out sooner, leading to congestive heart failure.

Numbers Too High? If you already have high blood pressure, take your medicine as the doctor has prescribed (for most people this means every day) and get 30–45 minutes of regular daily exercise. If you are overweight, attempt to achieve a 10% weight loss.

Keep the Math. Use the grid we’ve provided each time your pressure is checked. Simply cut it out, slip it in your wallet, and record the date and your numbers. If you have questions about high blood pressure or other medical problems, the CHP Health Coaches are standing by ready to assist you. You can reach a coach at 850-383-3400 any time of the day or night.

Name: Goal Blood Pressure: 130/80
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