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Hypertension-The Silent Killer 
by H.M. Scott August 15, 2005

If you'd rather be set on fire than exercise, have trouble fitting into your "fat" jeans and do not see your physician on a regular basis you might want to skip the Jeopardy re-run and read this article. You might be placing yourself at jeopardy to develop high blood pressure.

The Silent Killer

The coronary cops and all members of the public should be on the lookout for hypertension also known as the “silent killer”. Got your attention? Good. This article may save your life.

In order to determine whether or not your blood pressure is high you need to know more about blood pressure and hypertension.

Blood pressure is simply the force of blood against the artery walls as blood is circulated through the body. Blood pressure is measured at two points. The first point is when the heart beats and pushes blood into the arteries. This is known as systolic pressure. Systolic pressure is when the pressure in the arteries is at its greatest.

The second measurement is called diastolic pressure. This measurement is taken when the heart is between beats and the pressure in the artery walls is at its lowest.

Blood pressure measurements are written with systolic results over diastolic results. For example, your blood pressure might be recorded as 110/75. Then again, your blood pressure might be recorded as 140/100.

High blood pressure or hypertension simply means that your heart has to work harder to pump blood through your circulatory system. If left untreated high blood pressure can cause serious health problems such as: enlargement of the heart, hardening of the arteries, kidney failure, stroke and eye damage that can result in blindness.

Who Is at Risk For Hypertension?

Anyone can have hypertension. It is estimated that over 50 million people in the United States have high blood pressure. However, there are individuals who are considered more at risk to develop hypertension.

They are: African-Americans, people over 60 years of age, obese individuals, those individuals who have an unhealthy lifestyle which includes smoking, ingestion of too much salt or fatty foods, high consumption of alcohol, excessive stress on a daily basis and those people who have consistently high normal blood pressure readings.

It is estimated by the medical community that at least 20% of all adults have hypertension. It is also estimated that 60% of senior citizens have hypertension. What is of concern to physicians is that many people are unaware that they have problem.

What Causes Hypertension?

The cause of hypertension is unknown. Research indicates that the incidence of hypertension increases with age and body weight. Many people are under the impression that only obese people have hypertension. This is not the case. It is important for all healthy young adults to have their blood pressure recorded on an annual basis. As people age or have difficulty with other health issues it is extremely important that their blood pressure be monitored more often.

How to Get an Accurate Blood Pressure Reading

One high blood pressure reading does not necessarily mean that you are hypertensive. In order to determine that you have high blood pressure you should take several readings over a few days and then average them to determine your actual blood pressure.

In order to make sure that your blood pressure reading is not being affected by extraneous factors you should be aware of the following things that can affect your blood pressure.

It is very important that the blood pressure cuff fit your arm correctly when a blood pressure reading is being taken. The cuff should be snug but not tight. If the blood pressure cuff is too tight an extremely high blood pressure reading can occur.

If your arm circumference is greater than 16 inches your blood pressure should not be taken using a standard cuff. Instead, a larger cuff should be found or the standard sized cuff can be placed over the forearm and blood pressure can be determined by listening to the pulse at the level of the wrist.

You should rest for approximately five minutes prior to having your blood pressure taken.

You should inform the person taking your blood pressure if you are taking diet pills, any cold remedies, decongestants or allergy pills. These medications can elevate your blood pressure.

You should not smoke or drink caffeine 30 minutes prior to having your blood pressure checked. Again, false results may occur.

If possible clothes should not be tight as anything constricting could possibly affect your blood pressure reading.

In order to achieve an optimal blood pressure reading you should sit with your back straight, your feet flat on the floor and have your arm supported at the level of your heart.

You should also be aware that you may suffer from” white coat syndrome." Research indicates that people often feel anxious, angry or fearful when they visit their physician, because they feel they will be reprimanded for their lifestyle. Those 10 extra pounds that you're worried your physician will mention may cause your blood pressure reading to elevate.

With so many factors and variables that can affect blood pressure it is important to have an accurate profile of the person’s blood pressure readings before any decisions regarding treatment are made.

Your Blood Pressure Profile

  • Normal: It is important to note that blood pressure varies from person-to-person depending on a variety of factors. Keeping this in mind, an ideal blood pressure reading is considered to be 120/80.

  • High Normal: If you fall into the high normal range your blood pressure readings may range from 130/85 to 139/85.

  • Stage One Hypertension: If you fall in this category your blood pressure readings will range from 140/90 to159/99. At this stage your physician may recommend some lifestyle changes. They include: losing weight, exercise, quitting smoking, dietary and alcohol restrictions. If these modifications to not lower your blood pressure readings your family physician may prescribe medication.

  • Stage Two Hypertension: If you have blood pressure reading in the range of 160/100 to 179/109 you have Stage Two Hypertension. Stage Two Hypertension is usually caused by another health problem. Some red flags to alert you to the possibility of Stage Two Hypertension are: blood pressure increases suddenly, increased blood pressure occurs before the age of 30 or after the age of 55, after a period of good control blood pressure rises rapidly, blood pressure is consistently measured at 180/110 and blood pressure medications do not control your hypertension.

  • Stage Three Hypertension: A blood pressure reading of 180/110 or higher places you in the Stage Three Hypertension range. If your blood pressure reading is this high you need to seek medical attention immediately.

Treatment for High Blood Pressure

Once a problem with high blood pressure is identified treatment can begin. Physicians now have a wide variety of drugs to choose from to correct this problem.

Drugs will usually be prescribed only after lifestyle modifications are unsuccessful. The physician’s role is to identify a drug that is going to be successful in lowering his patient’s high blood pressure. Sometimes a single drug therapy is not successful in controlling blood pressure. After a trial period physicians may choose to combine medications to better control their patient’s high blood pressure.

Factors that physicians usually consider when prescribing medication are: price, are the drugs tolerable and which drugs can control blood pressure with minimal side effects.

Physicians report that 50% of first-time heart attacks are hypertensive. They also report that two-thirds of stroke patients are significantly hypertensive.

Taking Care of Yourself

We are all guilty of drinking too much coffee, eating too much food and spending too much time in front of the TV. Obesity is on the up rise in every developed country in the world. The complications that may result from this alone are staggering. Do not ignore your health. Visit your doctor to see if you have problem with high blood pressure. If you don't look after yourself you may fall victim to the silent killer.


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