Top 5 Myths About High Blood Pressure

Nearly half of U.S. adults may have high blood pressure, or hypertension, but many of them don’t know it or think they’re too young or are under the impression that they are not at risk.

Many widely accepted misconceptions about hypertension are to blame for this trend, according to physicians and recent studies. One of biggest myths is that high blood pressure is a disease that mostly strikes people over the age of 60. An obesity epidemic across the U.S. has helped thoroughly bust that myth.

“High blood pressure is not a condition that only affects the elderly. Most people will develop high blood pressure in their 40s,” says Ian Del Conde, M.D., a cardiovascular specialist at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute. “As we’re seeing the rates of obesity have slightly increased, even in the teenage years, we’re also seeing the onset of high blood pressure push a little bit toward the earlier ages. We’re seeing people in their 20s and 30s with high blood pressure. It’s a real problem.”

Hypertension has become such a widespread problem that the American Heart Association (AHA), the American College of Cardiology and other groups of healthcare professionals recently tightened the standards for diagnosing the disease. The redefined reading of high blood pressure is now 130/80, down from 140/90. The stricter standard, the first major change in blood pressure guidelines in 14 years, means that 46 percent of U.S. adults, including an increasing number under the age of 45, now will be considered hypertensive.

High blood pressure, which is when the force of blood pushing against vessel walls is too high, is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world.

“High blood pressure is a problem because it affects many different organs and systems in our body, including the brain, eyes, heart and kidneys,” says Dr. Del Conde. “This is the consequence of long-standing, poorly treated high blood pressure.”

Here are the top 5 myths about hypertension, according to the American Heart Association:

    1. Myth: High blood pressure runs in my family. There is nothing I can do to prevent it.
      High blood pressure can have a genetic factor and run in families. However, lifestyle choices have allowed many people with a family history of high blood pressure to avoid it themselves. “If others in your family has high blood pressure, you can be very pro-active about it,” Dr. Del Conde said.
    2. Myth: I don’t use table salt, so I’m in control of my sodium intake and my blood pressure.
      In some people, sodium can increase blood pressure. But controlling sodium means more than just putting down the salt shaker. It also means checking labels, because up to 75 percent of the sodium consumed is hidden in processed foods, including prepackaged meals, soups, condiments, canned foods and prepared mixes.
    3. Myth: I use kosher or sea salt when I cook instead of regular table salt. They are low-sodium alternatives.
      Chemically, kosher salt and sea salt are the same as table salt — 40 percent sodium— and count the same toward total sodium consumption. Table salt is a combination of the two minerals sodium (Na) and chloride (Cl). “It might taste better, but it’s not necessarily better for your body,” said Dr. Del Conde. “Because, at the end of the day, salt is sodium chloride. It doesn’t matter if it’s sea salt or kosher salt. It’s all the same. It has the same chemical-biological effect.”
    4. Myth: I feel fine. I don’t have to worry about high blood pressure.
      About 103 million U.S. adults have high blood pressure — and many of them don’t know it or don’t experience typical symptoms. “High blood pressure has been called the ‘silent killer’ precisely because of that,” says Dr. Del Conde. “You can have an extremely high blood pressure and have no symptoms and feel great. And then suddenly, you check your blood pressure for any other reason and you find that it’s high. The only way to know is by checking it.”
    5. Myth: People with high blood pressure have nervousness, sweating, difficulty sleeping and their face becomes flushed. I don’t have those symptoms so I’m good.
      “High blood pressure will develop and rarely show symptoms,” explains Dr. Del Conde. “I’m not nervous’ does not mean that you don’t have high blood pressure. And even if you’re nervous, which is unfortunately part of life, it does not mean that you will necessarily develop high blood pressure.”

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