High blood pressure-you’ve probably heard it mentioned at the doctor’s office or on television, but did you know you could be at risk? No matter your age or background, you could be susceptible; even if you’re otherwise healthy and not be exhibiting any symptoms, you could still have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute asserts that as many as 1 in 3 Americans struggle with hypertension, but some don’t pay as much attention to it as they should because they feel fine. Even if you are feeling symptom free, checking for hypertension is a key component of staying healthy now and in the future.
One important reason to get screened for hypertension is because the process is a simple way to gain important information about your health. Blood pressure screenings are inexpensive, painless, and take just a few minutes. This noninvasive procedure is much more pleasant and faster than blood work or ultrasounds, and offers a key window into a person’s heart and lung health. Hypertension is traditionally measured with the use of a rubber cuff that squeezes the upper arm, and a stethoscope through which a doctor listens to the speed of the patient’s heartbeat. However, increasingly, automated machines that perform this process are being used in doctor’s office, hospitals, and even screening centers inside drug stores and walk-in clinics. It’s so easy, there’s no excuse not to do it!
Another important reason routine screenings are important is that they serve as an early detection method for a variety of dangerous diseases. Some people with hypertension don’t initially feel symptoms, and even people who are otherwise healthy and don’t have other risk factors for hypertension (like a high-sodium diet or weight problems) may still be at risk of having hypertension because of a genetic predisposition or high-stress lifestyle. Whatever the cause, hypertension increases stress on the heart and can eventually lead to heart attack, congestive heart failure, stroke, kidney damage, vision and memory loss, and angina. High arterial pressure is also often an indicator of diabetes, and it is suggested that people with diabetes aim for a target blood pressure even lower than average, to reduce the heart’s amount of work and the risk for increased complications. According to the American Heart Association, the classification for hypertension in adults is a systolic blood pressure of 140 mmHg or higher.
Even if you feel healthy and don’t think you have high blood pressure, you should still be screened; high blood pressure is often referred to as “the silent killer” because of its lack of symptoms until it causes serious, often irreversible problems. And the earlier you know about high blood pressure, the quicker you can take steps to reverse the damage and prevent heart disease in your future. Your doctor can help you lower hypertension in a variety of ways, including a change of diet, quitting smoking and decreasing alcohol intake, increasing exercise and weight loss, stress reduction, and prescription medication.