Blood pressure is the force of blood that is placed on the walls of the arteries and other blood vessels as it courses through the body. It is common for blood pressure to increase and decrease – but when the pressure rises to an unhealthy level for a long period of time, this is the state of having high blood pressure, also called hypertension.
In the United States, there are approximately 75 million adults who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). The condition is especially linked to heart disease and stroke, which is a great concern because they are the first and third leading cause of death, respectively.
There are also millions of Americans who have high blood pressure and do not realize it. This underscores the importance of having your blood pressure checked by a physician on a regular basis to ensure optimum health. Let’s talk about what blood pressure is and what can cause it to become higher than normal.
What Do the Blood Pressure Numbers Mean?
A blood pressure test is quick and easy, and it determines your systolic and diastolic pressure. When read, the systolic number is first, and the diastolic pressure is second. The systolic number represents the pressure on your blood vessel walls when your heart beats; the diastolic pressure is the pressure between beats.
A normal blood pressure is less than 120 systolic and less than 80 diastolic (120/80, or “120 over 80”). High blood pressure is 140/90 or higher.
What Are the Symptoms of High Blood Pressure?
It is entirely possible to have dangerously high blood pressure and not even know it. However, most people with this condition tend to experience occasional bouts of shortness of breath, headaches, and even nosebleeds. By the time these symptoms occur, high blood pressure has become severe – see a doctor right away for an evaluation.
In addition to a medical history, a blood pressure check is a normal part of every health checkup. In between doctor’s visits, you may be tempted to check your own blood pressure at blood pressure machines that are sometimes located in grocery stores or pharmacies – however, these machines are not completely trustworthy. The blood pressure machine in the doctor’s office is much more accurate.
Who Is at Risk of High Blood Pressure?
There are several factors that affect blood pressure, including heredity, obesity, a lack of exercise, and smoking. Let’s take a look at some of these contributing factors:
- Excess weight requires the blood to work harder to supply oxygen throughout the body. Plus, pressure on the artery walls is increased as the volume of blood being circulated is increased.
- Exercise lowers a person’s heart rate, which lowers blood pressure. Conversely, a lack of exercise can cause a higher heart rate, causing the heart to work harder.
- Smoking or chewing tobacco raises blood pressure. Additionally, arteries are susceptible to damage from the chemicals found in cigarettes and tobacco products.
- Ordinary table salt affects blood pressure. Too much salt/sodium increases fluid that is retained in the body, which also causes blood pressure to rise.
- Excessive alcohol consumption affects blood pressure and can cause damage to the heart. For men, more than two drinks a day could negatively affect blood pressure, and more than one drink each day will have an effect on a woman’s blood pressure.
There are factors that can contribute to a person’s susceptibility to high blood pressure which are beyond our control:
- People of African heritage are more likely to develop high blood pressure, and are more susceptible to the condition at an earlier age, than those of other races.
- Diabetes, kidney disease, and certain other chronic health conditions can negatively affect blood pressure.
Family Doctor in Wellington, FL
If you haven’t had your blood pressure checked recently, we’ll make it easy for you: Walk-ins and same-day appointments are welcome here at Advanced Medical Clinic. Our offices are located in Wellington and Royal Palm Beach for your convenience.
Call us today at (561) 434-1935 or fill out our online appointment request form now. We look forward to seeing you here!