HBP: The Invisible Disease

HBP: Know Your Numbers

High blood pressure has no symptoms. Get a screening today and know your numbers. High Blood Pressure: Know Your Numbers

We’ve all heard of high blood pressure. We all know people who suffer from high blood pressure. Maybe you have the condition. But what, exactly, is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is nothing more than the force of blood pushing against the walls of the blood vessels. Our blood pressure, even healthy blood pressure, fluctuates — it rises with every heartbeat and falls in between. But if that pressure elevates and sustains those levels, then it’s considered high. And with high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, comes a myriad of health concerns including risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and heart failure.

Think of high blood pressure as the invisible disease. It has no symptoms. You don’t even know if you have high blood pressure unless you get it checked. In fact, one in three adults in the U.S. has high blood pressure, but only a third of those people are aware that they have the condition — all the more reason to get your blood pressure screened today.

Your Numbers. Your blood pressure reading is recorded as two numbers — a ratio. The top number is your systolic blood pressure, or the pressure when your heart beats. The bottom number, always the lower number of the two, represents diastolic blood pressure. Diastolic measures blood pressure in between beats when your heart is resting and filling up with blood.

A normal blood pressure reading measures below 120/80. If your systolic pressure — always the higher of the two numbers — registers between 120 and 139, then you are in prehypertension. A diastolic reading of 80 to 89 equals prehypertension. Your blood pressure is considered high if it registers at 140/90 or above and stays there — one high reading doesn’t necessarily constitute high blood pressure.

According to Jessica Frank, Renown Cardiac Nurse Navigator, anyone can develop high blood pressure, though some people are at greater risk because of age, sex and race.

“Everyone,” she notes, “needs to get their blood pressure checked.”

The American Heart Association recommends adults age 20 and over get a blood pressure screening at every doctor checkup, or every two years if your blood pressure remains at or below normal levels. Aside from knowing your numbers, you also need to know your risk. Are there any family health history factors that increase your risk of high blood pressure? Do you have any lifestyle behaviors or health issues that increase your risk?

There is no cure for high blood pressure, but it can be controlled.

“You can lower or avoid high blood pressure by living a heart-healthy lifestyle, which includes a balanced diet low in fat, cholesterol and salt; routine exercise; and stress management,” Jessica says.

She also recommends avoiding tobacco and second-hand smoke, limiting alcohol consumption, and maintaining a healthy weight. Get routine blood pressure screenings and take any blood pressure medication as prescribed.

Do you struggle with your weight? Get a blood pressure screening. Do you smoke? Get a blood pressure screening. Are you stressed? Get screened. Are you healthy and in the best shape of your life? You still need to have your blood pressure screened.

Know your numbers. Know what they mean. Maintain healthy habits if you have them. Or start implementing a heart-healthy lifestyle today and keep your blood pressure in check.