Your Health Matters
Turing 18 years of age marks a pivotal time in any young person’s life. With graduating from high school, attending college for the first time, or moving out on your own, this can be a time where things seem almost perfect. But nothing is perfect when over 28% of young adults who fall in this age group are experiencing prehypertension. Prehypertension is a silent killer that eventually leads to high blood pressure which is the first and third leading cause of death among young adults. May kicks off High Blood Pressure Awareness month across the nation. High blood pressure affects 1 in 3 adults, and with over 68 million people who have the condition, African-Americans are most affected. One of the biggest reasons for the high rate of high blood pressure is a lack of knowledge about the condition. Blood pressure is the force of blood that pushes against the walls of the blood vessels. The heart is constantly pushing blood through the blood vessels which carries it throughout the body. Hypertension or high blood pressure takes place when the heart is working harder to pump blood throughout the body which leads to the hardening of the arteries. If not treated over time, heart failure, strokes, kidney disease, and aneurysms can all be a result of prolonged high blood pressure. With high blood pressure taking place, there are those who are still in the dark on how to check blood pressure. Many people feel that going to the doctor’s office is the only place you can check your blood pressure, but making an investment in a blood pressure cuff can save a person’s life. There are also blood pressure machines at any local pharmacy. The thing to remember when checking your blood pressure is that it’s important to make sure you understand what the top and bottom numbers mean. The top number is defined as being the systolic number which measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart muscle contracts. The bottom number is defined as being the diastolic number which measures when the heart muscles are resting between beats and refilling with blood. Doctors are usually consulted first to better understand what blood pressure readings mean in order to treat the condition.
“Normal blood pressure is systolic blood pressure less than 120 and diastolic blood pressure of 80. High blood pressure is defined as pressures over 140/90. Systolic blood pressures between 120 and 140 and diastolic blood pressure between 80 and 90 is called prehypertension,” said Dr. Kayla Banks of St. Vincent Hospital.
Understanding what a blood pressure reading means is the first step to understanding how it can be prevented. It’s important to have 3 or more readings to determine if a person is experiencing high blood pressure. Sometimes people may experience anxiety or stress when visiting the doctor when their blood pressure is taken. The reading that is shown is sometimes false and can give the patient the wrong information about how they are feeling. This condition is called “white-coat hypertension.” In this situation, a doctor may ask their patient to check their blood pressure at home when they’re more
Another important factor about understanding high blood pressure is that it not only affects the heart but the brain. High blood pressure over time can cause a person to have a stroke if gone untreated. A stroke occurs when blood that is flowing to the area of the brain is cut off. The same thing can happen in an area around the heart where a clot can take place. This will cause a heart attack in an individual who has experienced high blood pressure over time. Dr. Jerry Smartt, who is a Neurologist at Smartt Neurology in Carmel, stated that, “blood pressure that is not controlled increases a person’s stroke risk by four to six times. Hypertension can cause atherosclerosis which is the hardening of the large arteries. This can cause blockage of small blood vessels in the brain, which can weaken and ultimately lead to a stroke. All this is directly linked to high blood pressure.”
Once a person has become educated about what blood pressure is and the effects of not treating it, the next step is deciding to make a change. The first step in preventing high blood pressure is making small changes in a person’s diet, developing good exercise habits, and making sure that there is some consistency with those life changes.
“Eating healthy isn’t just something that you should do; it’s something that you must do. Healthy eating is not just what you eat, but how you eat. The key to healthy eating is the time-tested advice of balance, variety, and moderation,” said Patricia Jones who is the author of Nourishment for the Body and Soul and Director of Jewel Food Services.
Changing a few small things in one’s life can lower blood pressure and prevent other health related issues. Walking 30 minutes a day 3 times a week, drinking water over soda, and eating favorite foods in moderation will not only prevent high blood pressure, but lower it over time. For more information on high blood pressure please visit www.cdc.gov/Features/HighBloodPressure or make an appointment with your family doctor today!