High Blood Pressure – What Does It Mean?
High blood pressure or hypertension occurs when the pressure in the arteries begins to rise – often a result of the narrowing of arteries and veins throughout the body. High blood pressure can be particularly dangerous to those predisposed to heart disease – resulting from genetic or environmental factors. This is because high blood pressure forces the heart to pump harder. Since the heart is a muscle, just like any other in our bodies, increased pumping leads to enlargement. As the heart swells, it becomes less effective at pushing blood and oxygen throughout the circulatory system. The result, over time, is a weakening of the heart muscle, which in turn can lead to a significant cardiovascular event such as congestive heart failure. The arteries in the body are also under added strain due to the increased pressure. This weakening can cause heart attacks, strokes, or aneurysms – all sudden and deadly problems.
As such, the dangers of high blood pressure are a very real medical concern. Further, most patients do not have outward symptoms of the condition, meaning that damage can continue unnoticed for years.
Beyond a genetic predisposition, environmental and lifestyle issues can contribute to high blood pressure as well. For example, many patients who suffer from excess weight and obesity have high blood pressure. Further, the eating habits of those who suffer from obesity often lend themselves to poor dietary choices that promote plaque buildup in the arteries and veins, thereby restricting blood flow and increasing pressure.
How Do I Know I Have High Blood Pressure?
Taking steps to finding out if you have high blood pressure is easier than ever before. Of course, the best option is to maintain your routine physicals and visits with your primary care physician, who will most certainly take your blood pressure during your visit. If you are at risk of cardiovascular disease or have been referred by your family physician, be sure to see a cardiologist to learn more about high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases. Today, you can even purchase a home blood pressure monitoring system that allows tracking of your blood pressure over time. If you notice that your blood pressure is trending higher, be sure to speak to your medical team about next steps.
As for treatment, medications are not the only option for controlling high blood pressure. Lifestyle changes, like diet and exercise, can go a long way toward reducing the chance of a cardiovascular event due to high blood pressure. Another option is bariatric surgery, which can be an effective and long-lasting treatment for high blood pressure since it fights one of the root causes – obesity.
High blood pressure is not a condition to ignore. Rather, it should be managed and treated at the source. Please speak to your primary physician and cardiologist to learn more about the effective treatments and next steps.