May is High Blood Pressure Awareness Month, and there's no better time to discuss this health condition that affects millions of people. High blood pressure — also called hypertension — affects about one in three American adults, and it’s the leading cause of heart disease and stroke.
Yet, many people with high blood pressure are unaware of their condition and its serious health consequences. Monitoring your blood pressure regularly is crucial in detecting hypertension early and taking appropriate measures to manage it.
At Quality Primary Care in Rockville, Maryland, board-certified internal medicine physician Suresh Malik, MD, and our team have helped many patients lower their blood pressure and keep it in a healthy range.
In this blog, Dr. Malik explains what blood pressure is, why high levels can go unnoticed, and what you can do to manage your blood pressure.
Understanding blood pressure and hypertension
Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of your arteries as it pumps blood through your body. A normal blood pressure reading is 119/79 mmHg or lower. However, if your blood pressure is consistently higher than this — especially if it’s much higher — this can lead to damage throughout your body.
For example, high blood pressure can damage your arteries and cause weakened areas to bulge. A bulge, called an aneurysm, can eventually rupture and cause life-threatening internal bleeding. High blood pressure can also cause damage to the heart, kidneys, eyes, and even the brain. In short, untreated high blood pressure can cause serious and even deadly consequences.
A variety of factors can contribute to the development of high blood pressure, including genetics, age, diet, and lifestyle. While some factors may be beyond your control, others can be managed to reduce the risk of developing hypertension.
For example, consuming a lot of salt or processed foods can contribute to hypertension. Furthermore, having a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, drinking too much alcohol, not exercising, and consistently being under a lot of stress can increase the risk of developing hypertension. Fortunately, many of these things are within your control.
Why high blood pressure can go unnoticed
One of the main reasons why hypertension is dubbed the “silent killer” is because it often has no apparent symptoms. Many people with high blood pressure may not even realize they have it.
One day, you might feel perfectly healthy, but the next, you could be facing a heart attack or stroke, both of which can be traced back to untreated hypertension.
As mentioned, high blood pressure is the leading cause of heart attack and stroke, so it’s imperative that you know what your levels are and monitor them throughout your life, because this is likely the only way you'll know if there’s a problem before it’s too late.
Detecting and managing high blood pressure
Checking your blood pressure regularly can help identify hypertension in its early stages, which can allow for prompt intervention and management. If you’re diagnosed with high blood pressure, Dr. Malik may recommend lifestyle changes, prescription medications, or both to manage your condition. When it comes to lifestyle changes, here are some common ones he recommends:
Adopt a heart-healthy diet
Focus on eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. At the same time, reduce your intake of sodium, processed foods, and saturated fats.
Physical activity is a crucial part of keeping your heart healthy. Aim to get regular physical activity for at least 150 minutes each week. Furthermore, choose activities you enjoy. Engaging in physical activities you find fun will increase the likelihood that you’ll make exercise a permanent part of your life.
Find ways to reduce stress, such as taking walks or engaging in deep breathing exercises.
Limit alcohol consumption and quit smoking
Cutting down on alcohol consumption and quitting smoking can go a long way toward reducing your risk of developing hypertension and other health issues.
Maintain a healthy weight
Having excess weight can contribute to high blood pressure. If you're overweight, Dr. Malik can recommend a plan to help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
Take charge of your blood pressure
Don't let high blood pressure go unnoticed. Make it a priority to get your blood pressure checked regularly and take the necessary steps to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
By staying proactive and vigilant, you can minimize your risk for hypertension and its potentially devastating consequences. To have your blood pressure checked, call 301-762-7723 or book an appointment online with Quality Primary Care today.