Hypertension – A Silent Killer


Hypertension is often called the silent killer because persons with this health condition may live for several years with no apparent symptoms.  For most people, the first indication of hypertension is a visit to the doctor’s office where the nurse checks the blood pressure.  Persons with hypertension are at higher risk for stroke and heart attack, so the problem should be dealt with as soon as possible.

Blood pressure is measured with two numbers and written as a fraction.  The upper number is the systolic pressure and the lower number is the diastolic pressure.  The systolic pressure is the pressure when the heart beats and the diastolic number is the pressure when the heart is relaxed.  Persons with blood pressures below 120/80 without medication have a normal blood pressure.  If the numbers elevate above this measurement but remain below 139/89, the individual has prehypertension.  Stage 1 hypertension is when the numbers are higher than prehypertension but still below 160/100.  Above 160/100 is Stage 2 hypertension.  Even patients with prehypertension will need to speak with a doctor about methods to lower blood pressure.

While 95 percent of persons with hypertension that cannot be traced to a single cause, there are some things that are known to cause an elevation in blood pressure.  While it is not possible to change all these things, some of them can and should be changed. Smoking elevates the blood pressure.  Even if a person has normal blood pressure and smokes, there are plenty of health reasons he or she should stop smoking.  If the blood pressure is elevated at the prehypertension level or above, it is all the more important that the person stop smoking.  There are many stop smoking treatments that can help.  Most of these are covered by insurance.

Obesity is also related to hypertension.  The good news is that losing only ten percent of one’s body weight can often significantly lower the blood pressure.  For persons in prehypertension, the weight loss may lower the blood pressure back to a normal range.  The patient’s doctor can recommend a healthy way to lose weight.

A lack of exercise can also lead to an elevation of the blood pressure.  If a person begins an exercise program, he or she can take steps to lower the blood pressure.  In addition, the exercise program can help with weight loss.  Persons with blood pressure problems should speak with their doctor before beginning any new exercise program.

Table salt or sodium chloride can raise the blood pressure in persons with a sodium sensitivity.  Lowering the salt intake can result in lower blood pressure.  Read labels to find the sodium content of the foods you eat.  Many canned and packaged foods are very high in salt.

While there are many other possible causes of hypertension, the above causes are things that practically any individual can take steps to change.  If the patient needs help in finding alternatives that can help to improve health and lower blood pressure, the primary care physician is often a great resource person.

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