High blood pressure is the 'Silent Killer'

  • Published
  • By Maj. Paul Ward and Maj.Gwen Kaegy
  • 559th Medical Group
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is an elevation of blood pressure. Increased blood pressure can lead to heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure.

At some point in our lives we remember having our blood pressure checked and being given two numbers. The top number represents the systolic and the bottom number the diastolic pressures in our arteries. According to the latest research, both numbers are important.

The systolic pressure is the amount of force created at the peak of the heart contraction, resulting in blood moving through arteries. The diastolic pressure is the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest.

A normal blood pressure is considered below120/80. Hypertension is diagnosed when blood pressure reaches 140/90. Pressures in between these two numbers are considered pre-hypertension.

The symptoms of high blood pressure are varied and include headaches, dizziness, visual changes, and lower extremity swelling. Symptoms can also be more severe such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or numbness and tingling of one side of your face or extremities.

If you experience a sudden onset of these severe symptoms, seek prompt medical attention at the nearest emergency room, or call 911.

Prevention is the key. Hypertension does not just happen overnight. It is a gradual change.

Check your blood pressure at least yearly.

Maintain a healthy weight with regular exercise and eat a low-fat, low-salt diet. Additionally, a diet rich in vegetables and fruit, avoidance of tobacco products, and limiting alcohol consumption may help prevent blood pressure problems. Consult your health care provider before starting an exercise program if you have elevated blood pressure.

Seek care from your health care provider if hypertension symptoms develop, or if your blood pressure numbers are above normal. Medical providers typically do a three-day blood pressure check and may start treatment. Lab tests will likely be done to evaluate medical causes. The health care provider often refers patients to nutritional medicine and health/wellness centers for diet and exercise assistance.

If you need to be on medication, take your medication as directed and follow your health care provider's guidance. Ask your health care provider about possible side effects and what to expect from the treatment. It is important to know when to seek further medical attention. If you are prescribed a medication to help control hypertension that is not an excuse to avoid exercise or ignore eating a balanced diet.

Don't be a victim of the "silent killer." Take precautions, watch for symptoms and seek treatment for hypertension. Do it for your family!

For more information, access the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute web site at www.nhlbi.nih.gov.

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