Understand your blood pressure numbers
Most people are well aware of their numbers on the bathroom scale, even if they wish they weren't. Yet, how many people monitor their blood pressure on a regular basis unless they already know it's too high? Even if your blood pressure is normal, it's important to monitor your numbers and understand how they relate to your overall health.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a serious condition that increases your risk of stroke, heart attack and kidney disease. It is known as a "silent killer" because many times there are no symptoms until organ damage develops. This is why doctors suggest you have your blood pressure checked at least once a year even if you fall in the normal range, and more often if you have high blood pressure.
In the United States, 30 percent of people are unaware that they have high blood pressure. What's more, 50 percent of patients on medication to lower their blood pressure, are not at their recommended levels.
What you should know
These are the four categories of blood pressure
|Stage 1 Hypertension
|Stage 2 Hypertension
||160 or more/100 or more
*Talk to your physician if your readings are significantly lower.
The upper or systolic number refers to the peak pressure while the heart is pumping blood into the body. The lower or diastolic number is the pressure of your heart at rest, between beats. The higher your blood pressure, the harder your heart has to work.
What you can do
If your blood pressure is normal – Keep it that way by maintaining or adopting a healthy lifestyle. It is always advisable, regardless of your blood pressure, to maintain a healthy weight and get regular exercise.
If your blood pressure is high (stage 1 or stage 2 hypertension) – Follow your doctor's recommendation which is likely to include a change in diet, establishing an exercise routine and medications to decrease high blood pressure.
If your blood pressure is just above normal (prehypertension) – Your blood pressure should be monitored by your doctor. You will likely be advised to make healthy lifestyle changes to lower your blood pressure including diet, exercise, stress reduction and medication, particularly if you have a pre-existing condition, such as heart or kidney disease.
Prehypertension is serious
Recently, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute issued new guidelines to help prevent and manage hypertension. It includes recommendations for people who do not yet have high blood pressure but whose numbers are getting progressively higher. This new category was created to stop or delay hypertension.
The risk of cardiovascular disease begins at a blood pressure of 120/80 and doubles with each increment of 20/10. Even patients with normal blood pressure at age 55 have a 90 percent lifetime risk of developing high blood pressure. To learn more about reducing your own risk, talk to your doctor.