What Is Hypertension?

Nearly half of the adults in the United States — 45 percent, to be exact — struggle with high blood pressure (HBP), also known as hypertension. Your blood pressure refers to the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels. It is measured using two numbers: the first number, systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats, and the second number, diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries between beats, when your heart is resting. A normal blood pressure is less than 120 systolic and 80 diastolic, which is read as “120 over 80” or written as “120/80 mmHg.”

Understanding Hypertension

Your blood pressure normally rises and falls throughout the day, but HBP occurs when these readings are consistently too high. Guidelines released in 2017 diagnose hypertension in patients with readings of 130/80 mmHg or higher. 

Typically, hypertension develops over time. Unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as poor nutrition and not enough exercise, as well as health conditions, like diabetes and obesity, can both increase the risk of developing HBP. Other factors that are more difficult to control include: family history, race/ethnicity, increasing age, gender (males), chronic kidney disease, and obstructive sleep apnea. Additionally, some women struggle with hypertension during pregnancy, which can lead to complications such as preeclampsia, eclampsia, stroke, the need to deliver the baby early, and placental abruption. 

If diagnosed, you can lower your blood pressure through medication and lifestyle changes, including: 

  • At least 150 minutes of physical activity each week — 30 minutes per day for five days per week
  • No smoking
  • A healthy diet that:
    • Is low in saturated and trans fats
    • Includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products
    • Limits sodium and alcohol
  • Weight management
  • Stress management

You can measure your blood pressure at home to ensure that your numbers are within a healthy range and that your efforts are working.

Hypertension as the Silent Killer

Unfortunately, HBP often has no warning signs or symptoms, and many sufferers are unaware that a problem exists, making it known as “the silent killer.” Hypertension can damage major organs like your heart, brain, kidneys, and eyes. It may lead to a higher risk of other health problems, including heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Measuring your blood pressure is the only way to diagnose hypertension — one of the many reasons that an annual exam with your primary care physician is so important! The best way to protect yourself is to know your risk factors and make healthy lifestyle choices. 

Reach out to Dr. Asha Tota-Maharaj, MD at Platinum Primary Care — referred to as “Winter Park’s best kept secret!” — with all your healthcare needs. Come visit us at our new office: 2071 Dundee Drive in Winter Park.