YOU and Your Doctor Are Your Medical Team – August 2023

Most people with high blood pressure have no symptoms for years, even if blood pressure readings reach dangerously high levels. For the sake of space saving I will refer to high blood pressure as HPB in the article. On a personal note-I developed HBP at age 26 and it was picked up on my routine semi-annual doctor visit. I had no headaches, no vision problems; I felt full of energy and “wonderful”, ‘etc. even with my blood pressure being 190/116. Although I was feeling “well”, having a “false sense of well-being”, I was a stroke waiting to happen!! My doctor prescribed a treatment plan and I have been compliant with it all these last 55 years, with my pressure remaining normal, because I under stood the consequences of un-treated HBP.

If you have HBP the force of the blood pushing against the artery walls is consistently too high which makes the heart work harder to pump blood.  High blood pressure is often called the “silent killer” for a reason-because you may not be aware that anything is wrong, while the damage is still occurring within your body

You are more likely to have high blood pressure if you: have family members who have HBP, cardiovascular disease or diabetes, are of African descent, older than 55, over-weight, have a sedentary lifestyle, eat foods high in sodium/salt and unsaturated fats, smoke/ use tobacco products, consuming more than two drinks a day for men, and more than one drink a day for women, and have an elevated cholesterol.

Untreated hypertension may lead to serious health problems including: stroke, heart disease, heart failure, a heart attack, peripheral vascular disease, kidney disease, renal failure, eye damage, vascular dementia, and an aortic aneurysm.

Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and has 2 numbers. The Top number-systolic pressure—measuresthe pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. The Bottom number-diastolic pressure-measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats.

A few people with high blood pressure may have: headaches, shortness of breath and/or nosebleeds, but these symptoms aren’t specific. They usually don’t occur until HBP has reached a severe or life-threatening stage. Once blood pressure reaches about 180/120 mm Hg, it becomes a “hypertensive crisis”, which constitutes a medical emergency and medical care should be sought immediately. When the blood pressure is this high a person may experience: a headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, blurred or double vision, nosebleeds, heart palpitations and/or breathlessness.

Self-Monitoring: For the most reliable blood pressure measurement, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends using a monitor with a cuff that goes around your upper arm.  Devices that measure your blood pressure at your wrist or finger are not recommended by the AHA because they can provide less reliable results. Bring you BP machine with you to your doctor visit to verify its accuracy.

Even if you think you are in well-health, it is advisable to see your family doctor twice a year for a general check-up including having your blood pressure taken. This is one of the medical things you can identify to help prevent / reduce further medical complications and damage to your body. Do not rely on how you feel to determine if you have HBP—it is a false sense of security.  Having your blood pressure taken on a regular basis is the true test for the condition. If it is found you have HBP, and prescribed a medication(s), etc. it is extremely important to be compliant with the treatment plan taking  medicines as prescribed. Never skip a dose or abruptly stop taking these medicines. Suddenly stopping your HBP medicine(s) without directions to do so from your doctor first, may cause a sharp increase in blood pressure called “rebound hypertension”. If you skip doses because of cost, side effects or forgetfulness, talk to your doctor about finding a solution. This condition may require a “lifestyle” and diet change prescribed by your doctor. Don’t change your treatment without your doctor’s directions first. This is not a DIY (do-it-yourself) project, this IS  a team effort with your doctor helping to protect YOUR health.

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Jackie Kellum

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