Sunday, May 5, 2013

Doctor's Orders - Hypertension:"The Silent Killer" by Su-Anne M. Hammond, DO

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is known as the number one silent killer because most people who have high blood pressure feel fine, making it a "silent" disease. High blood pressure especially in the early stages does not cause any symptoms, but left untreated can lead to an increase strain on the heart and arteries which eventually causes organ damage. Poorly controlled high blood pressure increases the risk for heart failure, heart attacks and stroke.

Your blood pressure is measured with two values. The top number, or systolic number, measures the pressure in your heart while it is contracting. The bottom number, or diastolic number, measures the pressure in your heart while it is at rest. Normal blood pressure should be <120/<80.

Many people are nervous when going to a medical provider thus hypertension is not diagnosed until they have an elevated level at two separate visits at least one week apart. Many providers will have patients monitor their blood pressure at home or work over several weeks to get a better perspective of their true values.

Treatment of pre-hypertension, 121-139/81-89 includes lifestyle changes. If you have a family history of high blood pressure, or pre-hypertension you should limit the amount of salt in your diet, lose weight if you are overweight, avoid excessive alcohol intake, quit smoking if you smoke and exercise regularly.

A low sodium diet has less than 2grams of sodium per day. (Read your labels, especially on canned and processed foods.) Alcohol intake should be limited on average to one drink daily for women and two for men. Exercise should be done for 20 to 30 minutes at least three days per week. Before starting any diet or exercise program you should consult with your primary care provider.

For some people lifestyle changes are not effective. Whether your high blood pressure is from genetics (family history) or a secondary cause of hypertension, discuss the risks with your doctor as well as treatment recommendations which may include medications.

Su-Anne M. Hammond, DO
Lead Physician - Mercy Windham Family Practice

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