High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can sneak up on you. It doesn’t have early warning signs to alert you of coming danger. Most people don’t experience symptoms until the condition has progressed. You might have nosebleeds, headaches, or shortness of breath, but if you’ve reached that stage, your blood pressure is likely life threatening.
Don’t wait for your blood pressure to reach critical levels. Our team at Calvary Urgent Care in Humble, Texas, can check your blood pressure quickly and conveniently, and let you know if there are any steps you need to take to lower it. Here’s what you need to know.
Blood pressure 101
A blood pressure test measures two things: how much blood your heart pumps out, and how much your arteries resist that flow.
If your heart pumps too much blood or your arteries are too narrow, the result is hypertension. Left untreated, this causes damage to your blood vessels and your heart and can lead to serious complications.
Hypertension comes in two types. Primary hypertension is a condition unto itself, meaning it’s genetic or has developed over time for no clear reason. Secondary hypertension is a symptom of another condition or illness. The following conditions are common causes of secondary hypertension:
- Kidney problems
- Thyroid problems
- Sleep problems
- Some medications
- Hormone therapy and birth control pills
Both primary and secondary hypertension are dangerous.
Why do I have high blood pressure?
Anyone can get high blood pressure, and most do to some degree. But regardless of the type or cause, certain people have a higher risk of hypertension than others.
As you age, your blood pressure naturally increases. There are more than 78 million Americans living with high blood pressure, and most of them are age 65 and above. But age isn’t the only factor that makes you more likely to have hypertension. You’re also at a higher risk if you:
- Drink alcohol excessively
- Don’t exercise
- Are overweight or obese
- Live with high stress
- Are of African descent
- Have a family history of hypertension
Everyone’s blood pressure goes up and down throughout the day depending on what you’re doing, eating, drinking, and dealing with. But if your resting blood pressure is high and you let it go, you risk permanent damage.
Dangers of untreated hypertension
High blood pressure, especially if caught early, is generally easily treated. Of course, it depends on what’s causing it. If you have an underlying condition like diabetes or kidney problems, those need to be addressed first, and your blood pressure usually lowers itself.
If your hypertension stems from lifestyle choices, simple changes in your diet and exercise routine can often do the trick. But left untreated, your hypertension can lead to serious problems that aren’t as easy to address, such as:
- Heart attack
- Vision loss
- Kidney damage
- Erectile dysfunction
- Weakened bones
That’s why it’s important to catch hypertension early and monitor it carefully. Some simple adjustments can make a huge difference in your health.
How high is too high? Understanding blood pressure numbers
The American Heart Association sets the standards for healthy blood pressure, and they recently lowered the target. In 2017, the AHA and 10 other health organizations change the threshold to 130/80 for all adults.
When you or a doctor measures your blood pressure, the reading consists of two numbers. The first number, called the systolic, measures how much pressure is pounding against your arterial walls every time your heart pumps blood through them. The second number, called the diastolic, measures how much pressure is pounding against your arterial walls between heart beats.
When you hear or say these numbers, it’s spoken as “130 over 80,” for example. Most people pay particular attention to the systolic number as an indicator of risk for cardiovascular disease, but both numbers are important. Your risk of fatality from heart disease or stroke doubles every time your systolic goes up by 20 or your diastolic goes up by 10, especially after age 40.
If you haven’t had your blood pressure checked in a while, call us or book an appointment online at Calvary Urgent Care. We can explain what your numbers mean and help you keep your blood pressure at healthy levels. Most of all, you will have peace of mind knowing that hypertension isn’t causing unseen problems.