Do you have stress in your life? A little extra weight around your middle? Do you smoke, eat too much salt, or sit on the couch and avoid exercising? With February being American Heart Health Month, we want to talk about how hypertension—also known as high blood pressure—could be creeping up on you. The signs are hard to see, but with extra knowledge and some preventive steps, you can catch it before it catches you.
Hypertension causes your heart to work harder than normal to pump blood through your body. This dangerous condition can also lead to stroke, heart attacks, and even heart and kidney failure.
Are there symptoms of hypertension? There are no defined symptoms of high blood pressure, which is why it's known as "the silent killer." There are some indicators such as severe headaches, vision problems, chest pains, irregular heartbeats, and fatigue; however, more often than not, those who have it don't know it until they experience a life-threatening illness. The only way to know your blood pressure is to have it checked.
It is recommended to have your blood pressure checked every 2 years. If you fall into the pre-hypertension range, get checked every 4-6 months so your doctor can monitor it, and you can take action if needed.
What should my blood pressure be? It can vary depending on exercise, time of day and mood. Here are the standard guidelines:
- Normal: Less than 120/80
- Pre-hypertension: 120-139/80-89
- Stage 1 hypertension: 140-159/90-99
- Stage 2 hypertension: 160 and above/100 and above
The top (or first) number is systolic blood pressure—pressure in the arteries as your heart pumps blood forward. The bottom (or second) number, the diastolic blood pressure, represents the pressure in the arteries as your heart relaxes.
What causes hypertension? More than 9 out of 10 people who have hypertension don't know the cause. But, there are several factors that can lead to the development of hypertension, like age and:
- Family history
- Too much salt in your diet
- Lack of physical activity
If you don't already, make sure to start monitoring your blood pressure and seek medical advice if you have any questions or concerns.