Our hearts are incredible organs, pumping blood throughout the entire body giving it the energy and oxygen it needs to thrive. Our blood travels through the body through what we call blood vessels. The strength of the blood pushing through the vessels is what determines your blood pressure. When your readings are consistently high, you may be diagnosed with High Blood Pressure, also referred to as HBP, or Hypertension. There are dangers with consistent high blood pressure readings; the goal of this article is to help you understand blood pressure readings and the risks involved if you choose to ignore diagnosis of HBP.
Understanding Blood Pressure Readings
Unless you are in the medical field or have already been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you likely pay little attention to the number readings called out at doctor’s appointments. While your doctor will certainly let you know if you are not within a normal range, it is important to understand what those numbers mean and how it reflects your overall health. The American Heart Association considers 120/80 mm HG as a normal and healthy blood pressure range. The first number in the reading reflects the systolic mm Hg which refers to the amount of pressure in your arteries during the contraction of the heart muscle. Anything less than 120 is a healthy number for the systolic pressure reading. The bottom number is the diastolic mm Hg which refers to the pressure when your heart is in between beats. Anything less than 80 is considered a healthy reading.
The chart below from heart.org will show you the levels the American Heart Association uses to classify different stages of high blood pressure. Once you have entered any area outside of what is considered normal, it is very important that you evaluate lifestyle habits and what to do to get back into a normal range.
Symptoms of High Blood Pressure
High Blood Pressure is known as the “Silent Killer” because unfortunately there are typically not symptoms that trigger a red flag. A blood pressure reading is the only true way to determine if your levels are in normal range or are high. Knowing what your readings are consistently and understanding where they are in correlation to what is considered normal is extremely important. In severe cases of Hypertension, you may experience symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, nosebleeds, chest pain & visual changes BUT these symptoms are not always connected to high blood pressure. If you have been diagnosed with HBP and experience any of these symptoms, notify your doctor immediately.
Dangers of Ignoring HBP Diagnosis
Even a slightly elevated blood pressure drastically increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, heart attack and more. Increased pressure within your arteries will cause them to narrow and damage overtime leading to your heart needing to work much harder to do its job until it eventually reaches failure (Heart Attack). This gradual process is known as Coronary Artery Disease. Other risks of ignoring high blood pressure diagnosis include but are not limited to:
Heart Failure – High Blood Pressure puts a lot of stress on your heart and makes it work much harder than it’s intended to. Over time this leads to it working less efficiently and eventually failure to work at all.
Stroke – Strokes happen when your brain becomes deprived of oxygen and nutrients needed to properly function. High Blood Pressure can lead to clots, ruptures or simply vessels too weak to carry oxygen and nutrients the way they are supposed to.
Aneurysm – When the constant pressure of blood flows through weak or damaged arteries, a bulge may form. If this bulge ruptures, you could experience life threatening internal bleeding.
Kidney Failure – If the blood vessels of your kidneys are damaged, your body will be unable to properly dispose of waste and fluids the way they are supposed to.
What to do about HBP
As you can see, choosing to ignore high blood pressure diagnosis could lead to life threatening risks, and more often than not without notice. The good news is that high blood pressure is both preventable and treatable, sometimes without medication. Depending on what stage of HBP you have, simple life changes and diet changes such as exercise, eliminating smoking and alcohol, reducing or removing salt from foods, and getting enough sleep can get you back within a normal range. For a more in depth list of preventing HBP or reducing blood pressure, view our previous post “Blood Pressure Impact on Heart Disease”. If your doctor recommends medication to manage your High Blood Pressure, you should still plan on making some of these lifestyle changes and fully understand your treatment plan to increase success.
If you have a family track record of High Blood Pressure or have already been diagnosed, find a local cardiologist (Heart doctor near you) to both check and maintain your readings. If you are in the Lafayette area, Dr. Thomas Corwin with CT Cardio would love to get you back on track for a heart healthy life.