6 Good Reasons to Keep Your Blood Pressure Controlled
Imagine if a network of pipes made up your body. These pipes carry blood from your heart to all other areas and your body’s organs. If the blood in the pipes doesn’t have pressure, then the blood will not flow. But if the pressure in the pipes is too high, they can become damaged. When the “pipes” are your body’s arteries, this damage can lead to the most common chronic (ongoing) condition, high blood pressure, also known as “hypertension.”
High blood pressure is a condition that affects men and women, young and elderly, of all demographics. If you have already been diagnosed with this chronic condition, it is possible — and essential — to keep it controlled.
What is blood pressure?
In more technical terms, blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing on the walls of your arteries. Blood pressure is expressed in two numbers (for example, 120/80). The top number, or systolic blood pressure, is the force of your blood while your heart is beating. The bottom number, or diastolic blood pressure, is the force of your blood while your heart is relaxing.
High blood pressure is a systolic blood pressure greater than 130 (the top number) and/or a diastolic blood pressure greater than 80. Blood pressure rising temporarily, or “spiking,” to these numbers during exercise or a stressful situation is normal. However, when a person often experiences these numbers when they are relaxed, they likely have high blood pressure.
The importance of blood pressure control
High blood pressure is often referred to as “the silent killer” because many people with the condition never experience symptoms. Despite this, elevated blood pressure can cause negative changes to your body and lead to other health problems, including:
- Heart Disease: High blood pressure damages your arteries, which can decrease the blood supply to the vessels in your heart. This increases your risk for chest pain (angina), heart attack and heart failure.
- Stroke: High blood pressure is the No.1 risk factor for stroke, as it can weaken or block the blood vessels in your brain
- Vision changes or vision loss: High blood pressure decreases blood flow to the retina in your eye. This can cause decreased vision or vision loss.
- Kidney disease: Uncontrolled high blood pressure can cause a narrowing of the arteries in your kidneys that can lead to kidney disease. Your kidneys play a vital role in helping to control blood pressure, so kidney disease can, in turn, also make it more difficult to control your blood pressure.
- Sexual dysfunction: High blood pressure damages the blood vessels that help achieve or maintain an erection and can cause decreased lubrication. These factors can cause pain during sexual intercourse.
- Dementia: Research has demonstrated that uncontrolled high blood pressure in mid-life increases the risk of dementia later in life.
Risk factors for high blood pressure and steps you can take to lower your risk
Nine out of 10 people will develop high blood pressure in their lifetime. There are some risk factors for high blood pressure that may not be preventable but are important for awareness. For example, you can’t pick your family, but discussing your family history can help you better prepare for the unexpected. Also, advanced age is obviously not preventable, but as you get older, it’s best to monitor your blood pressure and checkup with your doctor regularly.
On the flip side, the good news about high blood pressure is that it can be preventable, and if you receive the diagnosis, it is controllable. You just need to make a few changes to your lifestyle. Talk to your healthcare provider to see if lifestyle changes or medication treatment is right for you.
A short list of risk factors and changes you can make include:
- Obesity: Maintaining a healthy weight eases the work your heart must do to pump blood around your body. If you are overweight, talk to your healthcare provider about a plan to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
- High sodium diet: Consuming more than 3,000mg of sodium daily increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends consuming less than 2,300mg of sodium daily – the equivalent of less than one teaspoon of salt.
- Excessive alcohol and tobacco intake: Limit alcohol intake to two or fewer drinks per day for men and one or fewer per day for women. And do not smoke, vape or use smokeless tobacco (“chew,” “dip”).
- Physical inactivity: Get at least 150 minutes of moderate cardio exercise per week. This includes brisk walking, which can improve heart health and lower blood pressure. Talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
- Insufficient sleep and poor sleep quality: Everyone has different needs when it comes to sleep; however, sleeping less than seven hours per night might increase your risk of high blood pressure. If you snore and have restless sleep, you may have a condition called sleep apnea, which can also make it difficult to control blood pressure.
Digital medicine is here to help.
Are you struggling to control your high blood pressure? Would you like some support? Enroll in the Ochsner Digital Medicine program to gain control and prevent further side effects of high blood pressure. Our licensed clinicians and professional health coaches will assist you in medication management and lifestyle support. You talk to them over the phone, so no doctor visits are required! As a member of the program, you’ll also receive an easy-to-use digital blood pressure cuff that allows you to take readings from home, further limiting trips to the clinic.
Ochsner Digital Medicine also offers a Type 2 diabetes program. Join today!
With Digital Medicine, 4 out of 5 members achieve their blood pressure goals within 6 months and often have fewer ER visits and hospital stays. Learn more at Digital Medicine | Ochsner Health.