High Blood Pressure: Commonly Underdiagnosed, But Easy to Monitor and Control for Most People
3 min. read
Baptist Health Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute
Nearly half of U.S. adults suffer from hypertension, or high blood pressure. Because it often has no symptoms, many hypertensive people don’t even know they have it. That makes it a commonly underdiagnosed condition, despite how easy it is to check one’s blood pressure at a nearby pharmacy or at home.
An electronic blood pressure monitor – preferably with a blood pressure cuff that wraps around your upper arm -- can be found at most pharmacies.
“Hypertension is certainly commonly underdiagnosed,” explains Tarak Rambhatla, M.D., a cardiologist and the director of inpatient cardiac services at Baptist Health Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute. “And it’s very important because uncontrolled blood pressure is serious enough on its own, can lead to organ damage and certainly accelerate the negative effects of other conditions, such as cholesterol and diabetes, and together dramatically increase the risk of heart disease. It basically creates a milieu for those three conditions to work together to increase the risk of heart disease.”
High blood pressure is when the force of the blood is too high during the heart’s contraction or relaxation within the arteries. The arteries may have an increased resistance against the flow of blood, causing the heart to pump harder to circulate the blood. If left untreated, high blood pressure raises your risk for heart attack, heart failure Stroke, Kidney failure, loss of eyesight, and death. Two numbers are recorded when measuring blood pressure. Stage one of high blood pressure begin when the top number (systolic pressure) is 130 or higher, or the bottom number (diastolic pressure) is 80 or higher.
Dr. Rambhatla cautions everyone not to simply associate hypertension with overweight or older adults. Although being overweight, sedentary and obesity are major risk factors, everyone should check their blood pressure – which is typically done during regular checkups.
“Oftentimes high blood pressure is one of the first conditions to develop,” he said. “Sometimes, it can be a person who looks thin and healthy, and even exercises, that can be diagnosed with hypertension. Same goes for high cholesterol and symptom free heart disease.”
Hypertension is commonly managed by prescribed medications. But lifestyle changes involving healthier eating, regular exercise and weight management can naturally control the condition or beat it entirely. Nonetheless, making the necessary lifestyle changes is very challenging and full of obstacles for many people.
“It’s important for all of us to improve our diets and get out there and do our 10,000 steps every day,” said Dr. Rambhatla. “But people are very busy with their jobs and families. Some may not have acces to healthy foods and not everyone has access to a gym or can walk around their environment safely. So, it’s frustrating and it's tough. But it’s vital to try to get started early and really make those self-care behaviors part of your daily routine. Unfortunately, it can be a shock to get that initial diagnosis of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or coronary artery disease -- and then you have to change so many things dramatically.”
Lifestyle Modifications to Beat Hypertension
These healthy steps can help you control your blood pressure:
- Choose foods that are low in salt (sodium).
- Choose foods low in calories and fat.
- Choose foods high in fiber.
- Stay at a healthy weight,or lose weight if you are overweight.
- Limit serving sizes.
- Get more exercise (U.S. guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises).
- Drink fewer or no alcoholic beverages.
- Reduce stress.
- Get enough quality sleep.
- Quit Smoking.
Healthcare that Cares
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