Hypertension affects about half of American adults 一 that’s 47% or about 116 million people 一 and unfortunately only about a quarter of them have it managed. This means that a great number of people are living with hypertension, and they might not even realize it.
While arthritis causes achy joints and diabetes can cause extreme thirst, hypertension is a chronic condition that doesn’t always cause obvious symptoms. For this reason, the American Heart Association has dubbed hypertension the “silent killer.”
So how can you monitor for signs of a condition that can sneak up without symptoms? That’s the question that Nneka Edokpayi, MD, and our team here at Rapha Health and Wellness are here to answer today.
Let’s take a look at hypertension and the warning signs you may have high blood pressure.
The most obvious sign (and the easiest one to obtain) of hypertension is a high blood pressure reading. Getting a reading with a sphygmomanometer is a quick and painless way to know your blood pressure, and because hypertension can be silent, we always include blood pressure readings during every visit here in our Houston and Sugar Land, Texas offices.
Each blood pressure reading consists of two numbers: your systolic number (which measures the pressure inside your arteries as they contract) and your diastolic number (which measures the pressure in your arteries between beats).
Normal blood pressure is defined as less than 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mmHg). Elevated blood pressure readings are 120-129/less than 80 mmHg. Having elevated blood pressure is a warning that, unless you make lifestyle changes, you may be headed toward a hypertension diagnosis.
Hypertension itself falls into three categories:
While you might not notice any warning signs of hypertension if you only have elevated blood pressure, hypertension isn’t so silent as the numbers rise. Severely high blood pressure can cause:
If you suspect you or a loved one are in hypertensive crisis, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Hypertension doesn’t remain an isolated problem for long. As the pressure continues to build up in your blood vessels, it can contribute to issues across your body. Untreated hypertension can contribute to serious complications such as heart attack, stroke, kidney disorders, aneurysms, and vision problems.
If you have diabetes, it’s especially important to monitor your blood pressure. About 66% of people with diabetes also have high blood pressure.
Men with high blood pressure are twice as likely to struggle with erectile dysfunction. But women, too, may struggle with loss of libido, according to the American Heart Association. Because there are many causes of low libido, it’s important to understand the root causes, but if you are struggling with sexual dysfunction, it could be a signal that it’s time to schedule a blood pressure check.
Apart from a high blood pressure reading and familiarizing yourself with the symptoms of hypertensive crisis, you can also review the risk factors for hypertension. The most common risk factors include:
It’s important to note that just because you have some of these risk factors doesn’t mean you’ll definitely develop high blood pressure. However, knowing your risk factors can empower you to start the conversation regarding your blood pressure. For example, if you’re at an increased risk of hypertension, but don’t have it yet, it could be your “warning” to take action against the risk factors that are within your control.
Learning that you have elevated high blood pressure, or that you’re at risk for developing hypertension, can be overwhelming. However, Dr. Edokpayi wants you to know that hypertension can be treated (and even prevented) through lifestyle modifications, such as losing weight, following the DASH diet, exercising, and practicing stress management. In some cases, we may also prescribe medication to safely and quickly lower your blood pressure.
Back to the initial question posed in this blog: How do you recognize the top warning signs of hypertension when it’s often silent?
Prioritize your routine exams (where we always measure your blood pressure), continue to assess your risk factors, and look out for any signs of hypertensive crisis. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
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